HOUSTON, Texas – For the second-straight weekend, East Carolina avoided a Conference USA series sweep with a Sunday victory. This time, the Pirates downed Houston 7-6. ECU (17-25, 5-10 C-USA) got out to a 7-1 lead after three innings before holding off the Cougars (26-16, 11-4 C-USA) to claim the victory.
The Pirates scored five of their runs with two outs and the seven total are the most the program has ever scored in a regular season game at Houston. Sophomores Kristi Oshiro, Jill Jelnick and Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin each recorded two hits while senior Suzanne Riggs had two hits and a pair of RBI to back freshman pitcher Courtney Smith's first career Conference USA victory. Senior Priscilla Velasquez nailed down the win, throwing the last two innings to earn her first career save.
Smith (4-10) went the initial five frames, allowing five runs on nine hits and a walk. Velasquez made the first appearance in a C-USA game of her career and gave up an unearned run on two hits and struck out one. Houston's Diedre Outon (10-4) lasted one-and-two-thirds innings, surrendering five runs on four hits and a trio of walks. She also threw two wild pitches and struck out one. Summer Groholski recorded two outs, giving up one run on three hits. Bailey Watts came in for the remaining four-and-two-thirds innings, limiting the Pirates to one run on five hits and two walks. She fanned six in the relief effort.
East Carolina jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Oshiro led off the game with a single up the middle. A groundout to third by Jelnick advanced Oshiro to second before sophomore Alex Fieldhouse and Riggs drew walks to fill the bases. A sacrifice fly to left from sophomore Jordan Lewis plated Oshiro. Outon's second wild pitch of the frame moved Fieldhouse to third and Riggs to second, but a strikeout stranded the pair.
The advantage did not last long, however, as the Cougars tied it at 1-1 in the bottom of the frame. After a pop out started the inning, Ashleigh Jones walked, stole second and came home on a single to right center by Melissa Gregson. Haley Outon sent the first pitch of her at-bat to deep right center, but Lewis timed the leap and snared the ball before it went over the fence. Gregson stole second before Jennifer Klinkert lined out to Riggs in left to end the threat.
In the top of the second, the Pirates regained their edge with four two-out runs to go up 5-1. Velasquez opened the frame with a walk before moving to second on a groundout. Kaluhiokalani-Glackin followed with a high chopper in front of the circle that she beat out for an infield single, putting runners on the corners. A fielder's choice by Oshiro resulted in Velasquez being thrown out at the plate. With two outs and runners on first and second, Jelnick and Fieldhouse hit consecutive singles up the middle to deliver Kaluhiokalani-Glackin and Oshiro. Groholski entered for Diedre Outon and was greeted by a double to the gap in right center by Riggs that drove in Jelnick and Fieldhouse for the four-run edge. Lewis singled up the middle, but Riggs was thrown out at the plate by Jones in center field to close the inning.
ECU tacked two more runs in the top of the third to make it a 7-1 contest. Velasquez hit a one-out solo home run to left center. It was the first hit against Houston in the senior's career. With two down and the bases clear, Kaluhiokalani-Glackin walked and came home on an Oshiro double to right center. Watts avoided further damage with a groundout.
Houston put two runners on in the bottom of the third, but left both on base. With one out, Jones singled and went to third on a Gregson single to left center. Haley Outon grounded out to Fieldhouse at third and Klinkert grounded out to Smith to strand the pair.
The Cougars got two runs back in the bottom of the fourth to make it a 7-3 game. With one out, Reina Gaber singled and was replaced by pinch runner Julia Pecina. Kendra Cullum reached on a fielder's choice as Pecina was thrown out at second. Consecutive singles by Sydney Gerbracht, Anderson and Jones plated Cullum and Gerbracht to make it a four-run deficit. With Anderson on third and Jones on second, Gregson swung at the first pitch and grounded out to Fieldhouse to end the threat.
East Carolina had an opportunity to answer in the top of the fifth, but could not convert. Velasquez picked up her second walk of the contest to start the frame and sophomore Abby Wynne entered to pinch run. Kaluhiokalani-Glackin beat out another infield single to put runners on first and second with one down. Following a strikeout, Jelnick reached on a fielder's choice as Cullum at shortstop threw to second for the force, but Kaluhiokalani-Glackin beat the toss to load the bases. Fieldhouse sent a hard grounder toward left, but Anderson at third made the stop and touched third for the final out.
Coming off the defensive hold, UH struck for two in the bottom of the fifth to make it 7-5. Haley Outon led off with a single and scored on a Klinkert double to right field. Klinkert also scored on the play as the relay throw hit Outon in the leg and skidded to the backstop. Smith bounced back with a groundout, lineout and fly out.
With Velasquez pitching in the bottom of the sixth, the Cougars moved a runner to third, but could not push her across home. With one out, Anderson singled to left center, stole second and advanced to third on a Jones groundout. Velasquez came through against Gregson, getting the 2011 Conference USA Player-of-the-Year to fly out to right field to end the threat.
UH scored once in the bottom of the seventh, but could not force the tie. Haley Outon started the inning reaching on a fielding error. After a fly out to Jelnick in right field, Outon stole second and advanced to third as her slide into second knocked the ball into left center. Velasquez retired Jaime Edwards on a groundout to Oshiro at second as Outon came home to make it a one-run game. Gaber singled to center before Cullum swung at the first pitch and popped out to Kaluhiokalani-Glackin to end the contest.
East Carolina returns to the field Wednesday for a 5:00 p.m. doubleheader against Longwood (26-20). The games will be the team's Strikeout Cancer event, promoting cancer awareness.