SPARTANBURG, S.C. (ECU) – The ECU softball team capped off an impressive opening weekend Sunday by splitting a pair of games under supremely cold conditions at Cyrill Stadium on the campus of USC Upstate. With runs at a premium due in large part to the temperature, the Pirates fell to Miami (Ohio) 3-1 before downing the host Spartans 3-1 in the tournament finale.
ECU ended the weekend winning four of five games, marking the first time the Pirates have carried a 4-1 record out of opening weekend since 2015.
In the morning game, senior Morgan Halo delivered a hit and drove in a run as ECU out-hit the Redhawks 5-4 in the narrow setback. Johniann Wall posted a hit, a run scored and a RBI for Miami. Sophomore Whitney Sanford (0-2) took the tough loss, surrendering three runs (two earned) on four hits with five walks and three strikeouts. Taylor Rathe (1-0) picked up the win, throwing a complete game and giving up one run on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
Sophomore Erin Poepping (3-0) was brilliant in the circle against USC Upstate, tossing a complete game and scattering four hits while allowing just one earned run. She struck out seven batters and walked just one. Erin Hill (1-1) was nearly as good for the Spartans, going the distance and giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits with one walk and four strikeouts. Senior Ashley Weingartz posted two hits, a run scored and a RBI to lead the Pirates while Alyssa Oakes went 1-for-2 with a RBI and drew a walk.
ECU jumped on top early against Miami when with two outs, redshirt junior Tate McClellan drew a walk while classmate Rachel McCollum and Halo followed with consecutive singles to make it 1-0. The Redhawks attempted to answer in the home half, but with runners at second and third with two outs, Sanford induced a fly ball to center to erase the threat.
Sanford fell into trouble with two outs in the bottom of the third when she walked Ashton Slone and Jenny Vasquez consecutively. Kara Leckinger followed with a single to center that plated one run and another came across on a Pirate error to give Miami a 2-1 advantage.
Wall provided the final margin in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff home run. ECU managed just one base runner in the final two innings.
The Pirates were ahead again early versus USC Upstate when junior Logan Wood plated Inae on a RBI single to left field. The Spartans tied it in the bottom of the first with a run-scoring infield single off the bat of Oakes and threatened for more, but Poepping stranded a pair of runners in scoring position with consecutive strikeouts.
ECU put together a rally in the top of the third when sophomores Tyler King and Ashleigh Inae led off with two-straight singles. However, a double play and grounder to third kept the teams tied. The game moved through the middle innings with no runs as both pitchers locked in and traded zeros.
The Pirates finally broke the deadlock in the top of the seventh. Junior Abigail Umphlett pinch hit and took a ball off of her helmet to reach base with one out. Senior Ashley Weingartz then pounded a 3-1 pitch over the right fielder’s head and to the wall for a double but also advanced to third when the outfielder sailed the ball to the wall next to the Upstate dugout. Freshman Faith Jarvis scored on the play to afford ECU a 2-1 lead. Sophomore Courtney Layton was the next batter to pinch hit and she poked a grounder to first that allowed Weingartz just enough time to beat the tag attempt at home and stretch the Pirates’ cushion to 3-1. Poepping capped off a stellar weekend by retiring the home team in order to seal her third victory in as many appearances.
ECU begins a 16-game homestand next weekend when it hosts the Pirate Clash. Cleveland State, Purdue, Saint Francis (Pa.) and Wagner will join the Pirates at the ECU Softball Stadium for the three-day event.
Notes: The Pirates fell to 2-2 against Miami of Ohio all-time while improving to 3-0 versus USC Upstate … The Spartans finished No. 61 in the NCAA RPI last season, giving ECU two wins this weekend over top-100 RPI teams from 2018 … The Pirates out-scored their opponents 38-14 in the five games and hit .362 as a team while the pitching staff held opposing hitters to a .193 batting average against … Poepping finished her first weekend of play with a 3-0 record, 0.46 earned run average and 13 strikeouts against just two walks in 15.1 innings of work.