HOUSTON, Texas (ECU) – No. 7 seed East Carolina eliminated three-time defending league tournament champion and No. 2 seed Tulsa 4-3 in eight innings Thursday afternoon at the Cougar Softball Stadium in the quarterfinals of the AAC Softball Championship.
The Pirates (23-31) move on to the semifinals where they will face the winner of the quarterfinal contest between No. 3 Houston and No. 6 seed Connecticut at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET
The ECU victory marks the first setback for the Golden Hurricane (35-18) in the AAC tournament since it fell to UCF in the championship game of the 2015 event. The Pirates are also making their first semifinal appearance since 2017 when they hosted the tournament.
East Carolina out-hit Tulsa 11-9 and took advantage of four Golden Hurricane errors. The teams also combined to leave 20 runners on base.
Tyler King and Ashleigh Inae combined to go 4-for-9 in the top two lineup spots. Inae drove in a pair of runs while Courtney Layton was also 2-for-4 with a run scored and a RBI. Morgan Neal and Tori Stafford rapped out three hits apiece for Tulsa.
Erin Poepping (15-19) put together a gutsy effort and was rewarded as she went the distance, scattering nine hits and striking out six. Samantha Pochop (12-7) was saddled with the loss after throwing the last five innings and surrendering one run on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts.
The Golden Hurricane jumped on top with three runs in the bottom of the first. A pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs before Rylie Spell drew a bases-loaded walk and Stafford notched a two-run single to stake Tulsa to a 3-0 advantage.
The Pirates began to chip away at the deficit as early as the top of the second. Ashley Weingartz reached on a throwing error and Layton singled to right field to put ECU in business. Tate McClellan then singled to right field to load up the bases with one out. After a foul out, Inae ripped a two-run single into the left center gap to bring the Pirates within one run at 3-2.
The Golden Hurricane attempted to answer in the home half when a Neal double put runners at second and third with one out. However, Poepping answered with a strikeout and induced a fly out to keep Tulsa off the board.
East Carolina knotted the score in the top of the third. Morgan Halo led off with a single to right center before Weingartz reached first on an infield single with one out. Layton then stepped up and drilled a 0-0 pitch down the line in left field to score pinch runner Faith Jarvis and make the score 3-3.
The teams went scoreless in the fourth through seventh innings to set up the extra-inning dramatics. Olivia Narron led off the top of the eighth with an infield single and advanced to third after a pair of grounders. Rachel McCollum then put a ball in play that the shortstop could not handle as it dribbled into left field and allowed Narron to score easily. Poepping notched two quick outs in the home half of the inning and, following a single, struck out Sarah Briers to end the game.