ECU Softball captures AAC opener at Memphis, 5-4

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (ECU) – East Carolina rallied from a 3-0 first-inning deficit to claim a 5-4 eight-inning win over Memphis in both teams’ American Athletic Conference softball opener Friday evening at the Tigers Softball Complex.

Erin Poepping (12-7) went the distance in the circle, tossing her 13th complete game of the season. She allowed four runs on eight hits and struck out 11 batters, limiting Memphis to just one run after the first inning. Mariah Nichols (5-7) suffered the loss, surrendering the winning run and giving up three hits in two innings of work.

Rachel McCollum paced the ECU (19-11, 1-0 AAC) offense with a 4-for-4 showing and drove in a run. Logan Wood also posted two hits while Ashley Weingartz notched a hit, scored a run, drove in two and drew a pair of walks. Sara Ann Davidson led the Tigers (15-14, 0-1 AAC) with two hits and two RBI. The Pirates out-hit Memphis 12-8 and did not commit an error for the third-straight game.

After ECU left two on in the top of the first, Memphis took control with a three-run outburst off of five hits to take a 3-0 lead after one complete. Gracie Morton hit her first-ever home run and the Tigers added RBI singles of the bats of Ryleigh Aungst and Sara Ann Davidson.

The Pirates answered in the top of the second. Ashley Weingartz and Kendra Ziemba drew consecutive walks before Morgan Halo doubled off the top of the wall in left center to make it a 3-1 contest. A strikeout and liner to left stranded two ECU runners in scoring position.

In the top of the third, the Pirates loaded the bases with one out and scored when Weingartz drew a walk. ECU looked to do more damage, but two-straight strikeouts killed the momentum. The Pirates put a threat together again in the top of the fourth. An Olivia Narron leadoff single set the table and ECU eventually loaded the bases. Tate McClellan delivered with a RBI single to center that plated Narron and knotted the score at three.

Memphis grabbed the lead back in the bottom of the fourth with a Sara Ann Davidson leadoff home run – the Tigers’ second of the game. The Pirates then went down in order in the top of the fifth.

A leadoff double by Tyler King led to a RBI single by McCollum that tied the score once more at four. McClellan nearly gave ECU a three-run lead, but her fly ball to left sailed inches left of the foul pole before a double play ended the frame.

The teams produced a scoreless inning on offense in the seventh, sending the conference opener to extras. With one out, Inae was hit by a pitch and McCollum singled to the left side. After Logan Wood reached base via an error to load the bases, a strikeout brought Weingartz to the dish and she came through clutch, singling down the left field line to plate Inae and put the Pirates on top for the first time. Poepping finished the job in the bottom of the eighth, striking out two batters and inducing a game-ending grounder to short.

ECU and Memphis continue the series Saturday at 3 p.m.