ECU Softball topples Houston in regular season finale, 5-2

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HOUSTON, Texas (ECU) – A three-run home run off the bat of Courtney Layton in the sixth inning proved the difference Sunday afternoon as East Carolina knocked off Houston 5-2 to conclude the regular season at the Cougar Softball Stadium.

The Pirates (22-31, 4-17 AAC) moved past Memphis and clinched the No. 7 seed for the upcoming American Athletic Conference Championship that begins Thursday in Houston. ECU will face No. 2 seed Tulsa at 5 p.m. ET. The Cougars (37-17, 12-8 AAC) will take the No. 3 seed and face Connecticut in the first round.

Ashleigh Inae rapped out a trio of hits and scored a run while Layton drove in three. Morgan Halo and Ashley Weingartz also notched a RBI apiece. Arielle James was 1-for-3 with a run scored for Houston.

Whitney Sanford (7-11) turned in one of her best performances of the season, throwing her seventh complete game. She did not give up an earned run and scattered five hits to go along with two strikeouts. Rachel Hertenberger (5-2) was tagged with the loss after surrendering four runs (three earned) on one hit and two walks in just 0.1 innings.

A two-out error in the bottom of the first led to a pair of unearned runs for the home side and the score stayed the same until the top of the fourth. Inae singled up the middle to lead off the frame and Rachel McCollum drew a walk to put ECU in business. Halo then dropped a single over the third baseman’s head to score Inae and slice the Cougar lead to 2-1.

After Hertenberger relieved Houston starter Presley Bell in the top of the sixth, McCollum and Halo drew consecutive walks before Tate McClellan laid down a sac bunt that was dropped on the infield to load the bases with no outs. Weingartz then tied the game with a sacrifice fly before Layton drilled a three-run homer over the wall in dead center to put the Pirates on top for good.

Sanford finished the contest strongly, allowing Houston just two base runners in the sixth and seventh innings.