ECU Softball Team Cruises To Clash Title

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - The East Carolina softball team completed a 5-1 weekend, defeating Towson and Fordham Sunday at the ECU Softball Field to earn the 2008 Pirate Clash championship. The Pirates improved their record to 16-5 and have won 12 of their last 15 contests. Tournament MVP Brooke Swann picked up both of the wins as she ended the weekend with a 4-1 record and one save.

Facing the Tigers in the semifinal contest, ECU put up two runs in the top of the first. Charina Sumner led off the game with a single and advanced to second base when Christina Merrida reached on an error by the second baseman. Both runners then advanced to second and third when Erin St. Ledger laid down a sac bunt. The next batter, Jessica Johnson, ripped a double to center, scoring both Sumner and Merrida.

Towson responded with a run in the bottom half of the first to close the gap to 2-1. After Kim Lempa walked, Sammi DiPompo lined out to Cristen Aona, who then caught Lempa off the bag at first for the second out of the inning. Nina Navarro singled to shortstop a batter later and scored when Stef Streets singled to left field.

The Pirates broke the game open in the fourth with three runs, taking a 5-1 lead. They did so by tallying two hits and benefiting from a Tiger error. Kaui Tom recorded an RBI double, scoring Sarah Bibee while Sumner drove in the other two runs with a single to right field that plated Tom and Angel Barrella.

Towson cut the deficit to 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth, using two hits and two walks to score the runs. Navarro's one-out single accounted for both RBI. Aona made a nice play to end the threat, snagging a line shot then throwing to first for the third out.

East Carolina put the game away in the top of the seventh, notching three runs to provide the final 8-3 margin. With one out, Merrida singled to shortstop then stole second. With two outs, Johnson laced her second double of the game to left center, scoring Merrida. Jillian Gallagher was then summoned to run for Johnson but her stay was short on the bases as Stacey Andrews singled up the middle to score the freshman. Vanessa Moreno stepped up next and promptly singled through the left side as Andrews and Aona advanced to third. Barrella then brought Aona home with a single, this time through the right side of the infield.

Swann threw her ninth complete game of the season, allowing three earned runs on seven hits while striking out four. Merrida led a trio of Pirates with two or more hits as she combined with Sumner and Johnson to go 7-for-11 with three runs scored and five RBI. Johnson also recorded 12 putouts on the day, the second-most by any ECU fielder this season.

The Pirates jumped on top in the championship game with the Rams in the top of the third, when with two outs, Johnson reached on an error by the third baseman, allowing Tom to score. The sophomore had singled to lead off the inning. Tom would also provide the winning runs in the fourth, when she took a pitch over the left field fence for a three-run home run, giving ECU a 4-0 lead. Moreno and St. Ledger reached with a single and a double, respectively.

Fordham responded in their half of the fourth as the Rams loaded the bases on walks by Mary Beth Puccio and Samantha Pellechio and a single by Meghan Shager. Jessica Weckenman then connected for a two-run single, scoring Puccio and Pellechio.

The Pirates tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh with a RBI double by St. Ledger and a double steal play that allowed Suzanne Riggs to score.

Swann won her fourth game of the weekend and turned in her tenth complete game of the season. She scattered four hits while giving up just two earned runs and striking out three. St. Ledger, Barrella and Tom were a combined 8-for-11 as they accounted for four RBI, three runs and a home run.

Andrews completed a monster weekend as she hit 8-for-14 with seven RBI, six runs, two doubles, a home run, three stolen bases and two sac bunts.

East Carolina travels to Orlando this weekend as it opens Conference USA play with a three-game series against the UCF Knights at the UCF Softball Complex. The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday while wrapping up the series on Sunday with a lone game. First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for 1 p.m.