Five-Run Fifth Leads Pirates Past Houston
March 8, 2009
GREENVILLE, N.C. -- A five-run rally in the fifth inning led East Carolina (11-6, 2-1 C-USA) to a series-clinching 5-2 victory over Houston (9-11, 1-2 C-USA) on Sunday afternoon at the ECU Softball Field. It was the first series victory for the Pirates over the Cougars since 2005. Toni Paisley picked up the win for the Pirates in the circle and moved to 8-2 on the season, including both triumphs over Houston on the weekend.
Jessica Johnson drove in a run during the fifth-inning rally with a bases loaded walk and Marina Gusman-Brown and Angel Barrella each collected two RBIs in the frame. Prior to the two-out scoring outburst in the fifth, East Carolina had driven in just six runs with two outs on the season.
Johnson's RBI in the fifth moved her into sixth-place on the ECU and 13th-place on the Conference USA career runs-batted-in chart. The walk also moved her into a tie for fifth-place on the ECU walks drawn in a career list. Johnson now has 121 runs batted in and 79 walks in her three-plus years.
In the opening inning, Houston put pressure on the Pirates as two of the first three batters walked and ended up on second and third with only one out after a passed ball. Paisley then worked out of the jam as Laurie Wagner fouled out to Kaui Tom at shortstop and Jessica Valis popped out to Paisley in the circle.
With the game tied at 0-0 in the top of the fourth, the Cougars broke through and took a 2-0 lead when Jessica Valis stroked a single down the line in left, Houston's first hit of the contest, and Haley Valis followed with a home run to left center.
In the bottom half of the frame, Gusman-Brown and Barrella worked back-to-back walks with two outs. After Gusman-Brown stole third base, the Pirates had runners on the corners and Cristen Aona up to bat. Aona sent a flare into left field that shortstop Jessica Valis stretched out and caught, ending the threat and keeping the UH lead at 2-0.
After sending Houston down in order in the top of the fifth, the East Carolina offense came to life and scored all five of its runs to take the 5-2 lead. Sarah Bibee started the rally with a one-out single to left field and Tom followed with a four-pitch walk. A line-drive out to center field by Charina Sumner was the second out of the inning but Christina Merrida picked her up with a walk, loading the bases for Johnson.
Houston's starting pitcher, Amanda Crabtree, then threw two balls to Johnson to begin her at bat and the Cougars made a pitching change, bringing in Ballie Lott. Johnson then worked a walk from Lott, forcing in the first ECU run of the day and making the score 2-1 in favor of Houston. It was Johnson's first two-out RBI of the season.
Gusman-Brown stepped up to the plate after Johnson and quickly fell behind 0-2 in the count after fouling off the first two pitches. She then sent a double off the middle of the wall in left field, driving in two runs and giving East Carolina a 3-2 lead. It was Gusman-Brown's first hit on the year with two outs. Barrella then finished the scoring for the Pirates, and chased Lott out of the game, when her single up the middle plated Johnson and Gusman-Brown, giving East Carolina the 5-2 advantage. It was the team's sixth come-from-behind victory on the year.
The Pirates now have a quick turnaround as the team will host the Pirate Clash on Tuesday and Wednesday. East Carolina will face Georgetown at 2 p.m. both days and will play Toledo on Tuesday at 4 p.m. and at noon Wednesday.