Duke defeats ECU Softball 4-1 in non-conference finale

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DURHAM, N.C. (ECU) — ECU fell behind in the first inning Tuesday and could not recover as Duke posted a 4-1 non-conference victory in Durham. The game marked the final non-league affair for the Pirates in 2019.

Tyler King and Courtney Layton notched a hit each while Ashleigh Inae plated a run to lead the ECU (21-26) offense while the Blue Devils (25-27) received two hits apiece from Marissa Gagliano, Caroline Jacobsen and Reilly Metzgar. Gagliano and Kristina Foreman both drove in two runs.

Whitney Sanford (7-10) tossed her sixth complete game of the season in the setback, surrendering four runs on nine hits with a walk and a strikeout. Brianna Butler (9-3) was the victorious pitcher, throwing six scoreless innings and limiting East Carolina to two hits. She walked five and struck out four.

ECU threatened right away in the top of the first when King laced a double to left field to lead off the game. She would move to third on a sacrifice bunt by Inae, but two grounders were handled by the Duke middle infield defense and the Pirates came up empty.

Sanford posted two quick outs to begin the bottom of the second. However, Rachel Abboud singled and Foreman homered to left center to give the Blue Devils a two-run lead after one complete.

Ashley Weingartz drew a leadoff walk in the top of the second and Layton singled to left field to give East Carolina another scoring chance with no outs. A foul out and strikeout pushed the out count to two before a wild pitch moved the runners up a base. A grounder back to the pitcher terminated the threat without a run across.

Duke looked to pull further ahead in the bottom of the third. Gagliano led off with an infield single before Deja Davis lined a double to the gap in left center, moving Gagliano to third with no outs. Abboud sent a ball to center field that was caught for the first out and King fired to home plate, gunning down Gagliano attempting to score to complete the double play. A grounder to short allowed Sanford to escape the inning unscathed.

With two outs and no runners on base in the bottom of the fourth, the Blue Devils came up with two-straight singles, a walk and another single to score two and push their advantage to 4-0.

ECU stranded two more on base in the top of the fifth. King reached on an error and Inae walked, but a foul out to the right side kept the Pirates scoreless. East Carolina finally broke through in the top of the seventh when Olivia Narron tripled to lead off the frame and Inae drove her home with an RBI groundout.

The Pirates return home this weekend for a three-game American Athletic Conference set against Connecticut. ECU will honor seniors Morgan Halo and Weingartz in a postgame ceremony following Sunday’s series finale.