GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina’s softball team (6-7) dropped games to Notre Dame (8-5) and Liberty (3-6) on the final day of the Pirate Invitational on Sunday, Feb. 24, at ECU Softball Stadium. ECU fell to the Fighting Irish by a 6-0 score in the first game of the afternoon and then lost a close 5-4 contest to Liberty in the second.
Senior Kai Clark led the offense on the afternoon with three hits including a double. Cicely Lopez, Alex Fieldhouse, Kristi Oshiro, Jordan Lewis and Jill Jelnick all recorded two hits between the two games. Fieldhouse also drove in a pair of runs with her home run.
Freshman Mary Beth Smith (1-1) lost in the first contest for ECU after giving up all six runs (one earned) in a complete game against Notre Dame. Courtney Smith (0-2) was tagged with a loss in the second game after surrendering three earned runs in her two innings of work. Sophomore Sarah Christian came in relief for the Pirates against the Flames and threw five innings and only allowed two runs (one earned) with five strikeouts.
ECU, after winning its first game of the tournament, has now lost four games in a row. The 6-0 win by Notre Dame marked the first time that ECU has been shutout this season. The loss to Liberty in today’s game was only the fourth in 40 all-time games against the Flames.
The Pirates will now spend nearly the next month on the road and travel to four different cities starting on Wednesday, Feb. 27, with a trip to take on Elon at 5 p.m.
For the second straight game against ECU, the Fighting Irish again took a first-inning lead as Kelsey Thornton reached on a fielding error from the Pirate first baseman, stole second and scored on Emilee Koerner’s double to left for the first tally. Lauren Winter then reached base on a fielder’s choice as Koerner was tagged out going back to the bag at second for the first out. The Irish quickly loaded the bases on a walk to Katey Haus and a hit by pitch by Lauren Stuhr. Amy Buntin followed with a single up the middle to drive in a pair of runs. Casey Africano plated the final two tallies of the frame on her double to right field.
Jelnick started the East Carolina first inning with a single to left field for a promising beginning. She quickly moved to second a sacrifice bunt from Oshiro and then took third on a ground out, but was stranded on third to end the opening inning and keep the score at 5-0 Notre Dame.
The Pirates again threatened in the second, as both seniors Kai Clark and Cicely Lopez reached on two-out infield singles, but the next ECU batter was retired on strikes to keep the deficit at five.
ECU loaded the bases and again threatened to breakthrough in the third inning. After the first two had been retired in order, Fieldhouse reached on an infield single and moved all the way to third on a Lewis’ double. Freshman Casey Alcorn then walked to load the bases, but again Notre Dame stood strong and recorded the third out before any more damage could be done.
Fieldhouse reached base for the second time in the game with a two-out walk in the fifth inning, but again the ECU offense could not move her home.
In the sixth, the Pirates again mounted a potential rally with Clark reaching on a two-out double and Lopez pushing a single through the left side to put runners on the corners. The next ECU batter was retired on a strikeout to end the threat though.
Notre Dame added a single tally to the score in the top of the seventh inning on Cassidy Whidden’s home run to center field. The run represented the only earned run that Mary Beth Smith allowed in the game.
The win was earned by Notre Dame’s Allison Rhodes (1-0), who allowed just four hits in five relief innings.
Liberty scored first with two in the opening frame. Holly Siez and Sammi Shivock homered back-to-back to give the Flames the early 2-0 lead.
The ECU offense put two runners on base in the first inning. Jelnick reached on a lead-off single, stole second and took third on a wild pitch. Lewis walked and followed with a steal of her own to put a pair of runners in scoring position, but the Pirates were thwarted on an infield ground out.
The Flames added two runs to the lead in the third inning. Zavody singled to short and moved all the way to third on Siez’s single to right field. Shivock then drove in Zavody with a single of her own. After a fielder’s choice ground out, Shivock scored the second run of the inning on an ECU fielding error.
The Pirates scored their first runs of the day in the third inning. Oshiro was hit by a pitch and scored ahead of Alex Fieldhouse’s blast to left field. The home run was the third of the season for the California native.
LU’s Amber Donovan scored the team’s fifth run of the game in the fifth inning on Kelby Allen’s single past the ECU shortstop. Donovan started the rally with a one-out double and moved to third on Grace Nordan’s single.
ECU’s offense broke through for two runs in the fifth inning to draw to within a run, but also left the bases loaded. After freshman Meredith Mitchell recorded her first career hit, a single to left field, Jelnick hit a fielder’s choice grounder up the middle that was fielded cleanly, but also thrown away to allow Mitchell to safely reach second. Oshiro then ripped a double down the left field line to score Mitchell. After an intentional walk to Fieldhouse to load the bases and a strikeout, Alcorn blooped a single to right to score Jelnick with the second run. Unfortunately, the next two were retired in order on a pop out to the pitcher and soft ground out to second to keep the Pirates’ deficit at one, 5-4, heading into the sixth.
The Pirates put the tying run on base in the seventh as Oshiro led off the frame with a double to right, but after a fly out she was thrown out stealing third for the second out. Lewis then singled up the middle to again put the tying run on base, but a fielder’s choice ground out ended the game and ECU’s chances.
Liberty’s Annah Jo Brittingham (2-2) was the victor for the Flames in throwing a complete game and surrendering eight hits and four runs (three earned).