Pirates Clinch Spot In C-USA Tournament Despite Extra-Inning Loss
April 29, 2007
GREENVILLE, N.C. - A two-run home run by Houston's Haley Valis in the top of the ninth inning was the deciding hit in the East Carolina softball team's 3-1 loss to the Cougars Sunday afternoon at the ECU Softball Field. The Pirates drop to 35-18 overall and 11-9 in conference play while Houston improves to 37-15 on the season and 18-3 in C-USA.
While ECU may have lost a heartbreaker to Houston, the team did receive some good news. Due to UAB's loss in Memphis less than an hour after the conclusion of ECU's contest, the Pirates earned their spot in the 2007 Conference USA Softball Championship presented by Coca-Cola. Currently, ECU sits second in the conference, tied with Tulsa. However, the Pirates hold the tiebreaker over the Golden Hurricane by virtue of a 2-1 series win earlier this season in Greenville as the calendar turned from March to April. To secure the second seed, ECU must match or do better than Tulsa this weekend.
Angel Shamblin and Toni Paisley staged quite a pitcher's duel to begin the contest. Through the first four innings, the Pirates managed just two hits while Paisley was busy working on a perfect game. ECU had its chances to score in both the first and third innings. But with two runners on and only one out in each of the innings, the Pirates could not push anything across.
The Cougars struck first in the sixth inning. With two outs, Courtney Spittler doubled. Candi Kloecker then singled to bring home Spittler, making the score 1-0. ECU would answer back in its half of the sixth. With one out, Vanessa Moreno turned on a Shamblin pitch and ripped a shot that easily cleared the left field fence. Both teams were held without a run in the seventh, as the game headed for extra innings.
The Pirates thought they had the game won in the bottom of the eighth. After Jessica Johnson drew a one-out walk, Angel Barrella was summoned as a pinch-runner and sacrificed to second by Moreno. Barrella then tried to score on a base hit to left field by Erin St. Ledger, but was thrown out at the plate.
Houston took advantage in the ninth. Elaina Nordstrom doubled to begin the inning. After Paisley struck the next two Cougars out, Haley Valis hit a pitch that bounced on top of the center field fence that was subsequently ruled a home run. ECU put two runners on with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but Shamblin struck out the final two Pirates to give the Cougars the hard-fought victory.
Toni Paisley threw a career-high nine innings and was saddled with a tough loss. The freshman allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out 10 Houston batters. Her 10 strikeout effort marked the second time in as many days that she posted double-digit strikeouts. She has accomplished the feat in four of her last seven appearances. Despite the loss, Paisley still boasts a 17-5 overall record and 8-3 mark in conference play.
ECU will travel to Southern Miss next weekend to close out the regular season. The Pirates and the Golden Eagles will play a doubleheader on Saturday and close out the series with a single game on Sunday. A link to live stats will be available on the softball schedule page of ecupirates.com. First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for 2 p.m.