Looking to gain momentum going into a crucial Conference USA series with Tulsa this weekend, the East Carolina softball team made the short trip to Raleigh, splitting a doubleheader with No. 24 NC State at the Walnut Creek Softball Complex. The Pirates dropped game one 12-2 in six innings before rebounding to take a 9-8 win in 11 innings in a bizarre contest.
The short fences at Walnut Creek proved beneficial to ECU (26-11, 4-2 C-USA) hitters, as Erin St. Ledger smacked two home runs on the day. Jessica Johnson added her eighth dinger of the season in game one while Vanessa Moreno hit her first of the year in the nightcap. With Moreno's jack, every hitter on the squad has at least one home run this season.
ECU jumped on Wolfpack (23-14) starter Abbie Sims in the first inning of game one when St. Ledger and Johnson hit back-to-back home runs. The Pirates would lose the lead in the bottom of the second, as Shanna Smith smacked a ground rule double with one out. Smith would advance to third on a fly-out by Miranda Ervin. After Megan Dalthorp hit a ground rule double of her own that scored Smith, Laura Klem walked. That brought up Heather Gelbard, who proceeded to rip a three-run homerun, giving the Wolfpack the 4-2 lead.
The Wolfpack would cruise from there, adding runs in the third and fifth innings, before Allison Presnell ended the game with a grand slam. The game ended because of the ten-run mercy rule. ECU starter Keli Harrell gave up seven hits and struck out two Wolfpack batters. Brooke Swann relieved Harrell, giving up six earned runs on four hits while striking out two.
The two teams met again with the Wolfpack looking for the sweep. NC State would take the early 1-0 lead in the second inning when Smith homered off of Pirate starter Toni Paisley. The Wolfpack would add to their lead in the third when Jen Chamberlain took another ball over the fence, scoring Blair Harkey and giving NC State a 3-0 lead. The Wolfpack would add one more run in the inning when a double by Smith scored Presnell from second. Harrell would relieve Paisley in the fourth inning.
St. Ledger would get the Pirates on the board in the sixth inning when she smashed a solo home run to center field to make the score 4-1. ECU looked ready to head home in the top of the seventh as the Wolfpack needed just three outs to secure the sweep. The Pirates had other ideas however, scoring six runs in the inning to take a 7-4 lead. After Johnson and Joyce Roodenburg both singled with the bases loaded to tie the game at 4-4, Moreno nearly took the right field fence down with her three-run shot, giving ECU an improbable 7-4 lead. The Wolfpack would rally in the bottom of the seventh, manufacturing five hits to tie the game at seven. The international tiebreaker rule went into effect starting in the eighth inning as teams put a runner on second to begin each extra inning. After both teams plated runs in the ninth inning, St. Ledger brought home the winning run in the 11th when she plated Baggett on an error by NC State shortstop Smith. Paisley pitched three innings for the Pirates, giving up three earned runs on four hits. Harrell threw eight innings in relief, also allowing three earned runs on four hits while striking out nine Wolfpack hitters.
ECU will return to Greenville this weekend as it hosts Tulsa in a pivotal Conference USA series. The Golden Hurricane and the Pirates will play a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game on Sunday. First pitch of Saturday's first contest is scheduled for 1 p.m.