GREENVILLE, N.C. – Behind strong pitching and timely hitting, East Carolina won both games in a doubleheader against Tennessee Tech on Saturday afternoon at the ECU Softball Stadium. The Pirates won game one, 7-1, before winning on a walk-off, pinch-hit RBI single by Kelsi Briggs in the bottom of the eighth inning of game two.
The Pirates (10-4), who improved to 5-0 at home with the pair of wins, have earned victories in five straight and eight of their last nine contests.
Sarah Christian (7-1) earned her fourth complete-game win of the season in game one, pitching all seven innings and allowing just three hits, one run, one walk while matching her season high in strikeouts with six. The junior has now won each of her last six decisions and has compiled a 1.14 ERA in 37 innings pitched in those games.
Casey Alcorn batted 5-for-6 with a home run and two RBIs over the course of both games, as Shelby Johnson combined to go 5-for-7 with two runs scored and four stolen bases. Johnson’s four steals increased her Conference USA-leading total to 15 on the season and has reached base in 12-straight games.
East Carolina generated its largest scoring production in a single inning all season in the bottom of the first frame, scoring six runs on five hits, including two home runs off the bats of Jordan Lewis and Alcorn.
ECU loaded the bases after singles by Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin and Johnson, before a sac bunt by Kristi Oshiro and a walk to Abby Wynne loaded the bases. An RBI single by Alex Fieldhouse scored the game’s first run, while advancing each runner one base. It was then that Lewis stepped in and belted a grand slam over the left field wall to increase the Pirates’ lead to 5-0.
The home run was Lewis’ fourth round-tripper of the year and her third in the team’s last four games. It was also the 18th of her career, moving the Fremont, Calif., native into a tie with Vanessa Moreno (2006-10) for seventh place on the all-time list.
The scoring was not through for the inning however, as Alcorn stepped in and pulled her second home run of the year to left and make the score 6-0. Alcorn added a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third inning to round out the scoring for East Carolina.
In game two, ECU picked up a run on a sac fly by Meredith Mitchell in the bottom of the second inning, while the pitching staff was able to strand numerous Tennessee Tech (5-10) baserunners through the first three frames. The Golden Eagles figured it out in the top of the fourth however, taking advantage of a throwing error and combining for three runs and hits to take its first lead of the afternoon.
Caroline Umphlett (2-1) took over in the circle with one out in the fourth and cruised for much of the remainder of the game, pitching 4 2/3 shutout innings, scattering five hits and allowing no runs or walks, while recording a career-high three strikeouts.
While Umphlett continued to put up zeroes, the Pirates gave her the run support she needed with a two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth inning. A bunt single and steal of second base by Johnson got things going, before Oshiro lined a 2-1 pitch down the right field line for an RBI double to cut the deficit in half, 3-2. Wynne followed up by smoking an RBI double of her own to left field to score Oshiro and tie the game at three.
The game moved to extra innings after ECU stranded the winning run on third base in the bottom of the seventh, but made up for the shortcoming in the bottom of the eighth.
A one-out single by Fieldhouse led to a fielding error by Tennessee Tech’s second baseman on a grounder hit sharply-hit grounder by Lewis. Alcorn then punched a single down the left field line, but with the left fielder playing shallow, Fieldhouse was forced to stop at third.
A foul pop-out to the first-base side made two outs in the inning, when Kelsi Briggs was called upon to pinch hit with the bases loaded. Briggs roped a 1-0 pitch over the second baseman’s head and into right field for an RBI single to score Fieldhouse and give the Pirates a 4-3 win.
East Carolina will look to complete the series sweep over the Golden Eagles on Sunday, March 2. First pitch is scheduled for 12 noon at the ECU Softball Stadium.