IRVING, Texas – East Carolina, winner of the last two Conference USA Softball Championships, will enter this week's event as the No. 6 seed after finishing the regular season with a 25-27 overall record and 11-12 mark in league games. The Pirates open tournament play facing third-seeded Marshall (34-20, 15-9 C-USA) at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the UAB Softball Complex in Birmingham, Ala.
East Carolina is 11-12 all-time in C-USA postseason action having defeated Houston, Memphis, Southern Miss and UCF twice and Marshall, Tulsa and UAB once.
A year ago, fifth-seeded ECU claimed its second consecutive C-USA Tournament title, downing Memphis 5-1, Houston 1-0 and Tulsa 4-1. Back-to-back crowns make it a six-game winning streak for the Pirates in postseason league play. The run is the second longest ever by a C-USA squad, trailing only DePaul’s seven consecutive victories during the 2004-05 tournaments. The Blue Demons also recorded six-straight wins in the 2002-03 events.
This season, East Carolina’s offense has been led by senior Suzanne Riggs, who paces the squad in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.331), runs batted in (33), slugging percentage (.573), walks (27), on-base percentage (.452) and home runs (eight). The Greenville product also owns a team second-best 10 multiple-hit games and squad-high 11 multi-RBI contests. Riggs led the Pirates with a .379 batting average, .603 slugging percentage, .493 on-base percentage, 22 hits, 18 RBI and three homers in league play.
Another key piece of ECU’s offense is sophomore Jill Jelnick, who leads the squad with 51 hits while standing second in batting average (.321), on-base percentage (.397) and walks (18). The Aliso Viejo, Calif., native hit .310 in C-USA action and scored a team-high 13 runs.
In the circle, the duo of freshmen Sarah Christian and Courtney Smith has combined to post a 4.08 earned run average. The pair has tallied 108 strikeouts and issued a C-USA-low 92 walks. Christian owns an 18-15 record and 3.47 ERA while Smith is 7-12 with a 4.96 ERA.