GREENVILLE, N.C. - Looking to remain second in the Conference USA standings, the ECU softball team did just that, splitting a doubleheader with the Memphis Tigers Saturday afternoon at the ECU Softball Field. After dropping the first contest 8-3, the Pirates roared back to dominate the Tigers in game two 5-0. ECU now stands at 30-15 overall and 8-6 in conference play while Memphis sits at 26-17 and 4-9 in C-USA.
The Tigers wasted no time getting on the board in game one as the first Memphis batter Leila Dolfo bounced a ball off left fielder Vanessa Moreno's outstretched glove and over the wall for a 1-0 Tiger lead. Memphis would add to its advantage in the third inning as they scored three runs off two hits and two Pirate errors.
With ECU trailing 4-0 at the start of the bottom of the fourth inning, Jessica Johnson ripped her 10th home run of the season to bring the Pirates to within three runs of the Tigers. The Pirates would put two more runners on base but Memphis starter Jenna Kubesch struck out Joyce Roodenburg and induced a groundout from Cristen Aona to end the ECU threat.
The Tigers would all but put game one out of reach in the sixth inning, thanks to a two-run shot by Kara Ross and two wild pitches from Brooke Swann, who relieved starter Keli Harrell. Memphis would score four runs in the inning to take an 8-1 lead.
The Pirates would attempt a comeback at their last at bat. Tiffany Shaw led off the inning and reached second base on an error by first baseman Kara Ross. Sarah Bibee, pinch hitting for Charina Sumner, proceeded to blister a double to the center field wall which allowed Shaw to score. The very next batter, Angel Barrella, smacked a double of her own that brought Bibee home. With the score 8-3, ECU could muster no more offense, ending the game with a pop-up and a groundout.
In game two, it was the Pirates who jumped on top early, scoring two runs in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead. Erin St. Ledger started the rally when she walked and advanced to third on a double by Jessica Johnson. After Sumner drew a walk of her own, St. Ledger scored when Roodenburg reached on a fielder's choice. With Sumner at third, Tiger third baseman Bridgette McNulty committed an error which allowed the freshman to score.
Memphis almost drew blood in the fourth inning, but with Tigers at first and third with two outs, starter Toni Paisley struck out Lindsey Pridgen to end the inning. ECU would add two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Roodenburg led off the inning with a walk and scored when the next batter Paige Baggett doubled. Bibee proceeded to draw a walk and advanced to second on an infield hit by Christina Merrida. With the bases full of Pirates, Baggett made her way to home plate for a 4-0 ECU lead as Memphis reliever Kubesch was charged with a wild pitch.
The Pirates would tack on one more run in the sixth as Bibee earned her second double and second RBI of the day, scoring pinch runner Stacey Andrews, who ran for Baggett. Baggett had singled to lead off the inning.
Paisley turned in yet another strong performance, earning her 13th win of the season and sixth in conference play. She scattered four Tiger hits while walking just two and striking out 11. The 11 strikeouts ties her career-high, set on March 22 against UNCG when she hurled her first career no-hitter.
"Toni continues to be just amazing for us," said associate head coach Natalie Kozlowski. "Sarah Bibee also stepped up huge for us today. It is really great to see her get some good swings at the plate."
The teams will conclude the three-game conference series tomorrow at the ECU Softball Field. First pitch is scheduled for its original 1 p.m. start, despite threats of inclement weather. Fans should check ecupirates.com should any changes for tomorrow's contest arise.