BOCA RATON, Fla. – Sixth-seeded East Carolina scored four runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back as the Pirates collected a 5-1 win over third-seeded FIU and advanced to the semifinals of the 2014 Conference USA Championships on Thursday afternoon at the FAU Softball Stadium.
Junior Caroline Umphlett (10-5) earned her fifth win in as many starts, pitching five innings of one-run ball while walking two and striking out a pair. Sarah Christian threw two hitless innings of relief and struck out three to earn her second-career save.
Shelby Johnson went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, while Jordan Lewis had two walks, a run, one RBI, a stolen base. Johnson recorded her team-best 16th multi-hit game and fifth with at least three base-knocks this season.
East Carolina got off to a fast start batting in the top of the first inning by sending eight hitters to the plate, as Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin and Johnson hit back-to-back singles up the middle and Kristi Oshiro walked to load the bases with no outs.
After a strikeout and fielder’s choice kept the bases full, Lewis drew a walk to plate the Pirates’ first run of the game. Jill Jelnick was next to step in and she ripped a fly ball to deep right that went off the fielder’s glove as all three base-runners came around to score and give ECU an early 4-0 lead.
Both pitchers found their grooves in the circle over the next four frames, but with two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Johnson hit a 3-2 pitch to center, which broke up a streak of 12-straight batters retired by FIU (33-20, 15-9 C-USA) starting pitcher Corinne Jenkins.
The Panthers’ offense came to life when they hit back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the sixth inning, forcing Umphlett from the circle as Sarah Christian came on in relief. The first batter Christian faced reached on an infield error that scored FIU’s first run of the game. The Greenville native showed grit in the circle after allowing a one-out walk to load the bases, before striking out the next two batters to escape the jam.
ECU tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning after Casey Alcorn led off with a single. Jasmine Robbins laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, before Kaluhiokalani-Glackin advanced Alcorn to third on a groundout. That was when Johnson stepped in and laced an RBI single down the left field line to increase the Pirates’ lead to 5-1.
Christian sat down FIU in order in the bottom of the seventh to complete the six-out save.
East Carolina will square off against seventh-seeded Marshall (27-30, 13-11 C-USA) on Friday, May 9 in the semifinals at 2 p.m. The Thundering Herd knocked off second-seeded UAB, 4-0, on Thursday.