Softball Comes Back Twice For Sweep Of Memphis

UABSPORTS.COM Junior Kai Clark hit a game-tying home run to lead off the seventh inning of game two Saturday at Memphis.
Junior Kai Clark hit a game-tying home run to lead off the seventh inning of game two Saturday at Memphis.

May 5, 2012

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. - East Carolina started its final weekend of the regular season with two come-from-behind wins at Memphis, beating the Tigers 5-4 in the opener and 4-3 in eight innings in the nightcap. The victories give the Pirates nine triumphs in their last 10 contests and even their Conference USA record at 11-11. The team's overall mark is now within one game of .500 at 25-26.

In game one, ECU trailed 4-1 heading into the sixth inning, but scored four times with two outs in the frame to earn the victory. Senior Suzanne Riggs led the offense in the opener, going three-for-three with two runs batted in, and classmate Priscilla Velasquez drove in the winning run. The second contest had junior Kai Clark hit a game-tying home run to lead off the top of the seventh and Riggs plate the deciding score with a single in the eighth.

During the opener, East Carolina freshman Sarah Christian (18-15) earned the win in the complete game. She scattered nine hits and allowed four runs on a walk while striking out one. Ellen Roberts (11-18) threw the first five-and-two-thirds innings for the Tigers. She surrendered five runs on eight hits and four walks. She also fanned three, hit one and threw two wild pitches. Jordan Richwood tossed the final inning-and-a-third, giving up just two hits.

The comeback in the second contest made a winner of freshman Courtney Smith (7-11), who threw all eight innings. She gave up three runs on five hits and two walks with one strikeout. Richwood (6-11) was saddled with the loss. In eight innings of work, she surrendered four runs, three earned, and seven hits. She also fanned two and issued one free pass.

In the opener, the Pirates jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Sophomore Jill Jelnick led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by classmate Kristi Oshiro and went to third on a Roberts wild pitch. On the eighth pitch to Riggs, she dropped a single into shallow center that drove in Jelnick for the lead. Following a fielder's choice, sophomore Jordan Lewis turned a nine-pitch at-bat into a walk, but a strikeout ended the inning.

Memphis (19-36, 7-16 C-USA) got a run back in the bottom of the second to tie the game at 1-1. Roberts led off with a walk and was replaced by pinch runner Breslin Perry. A sacrifice bunt by Amber Lindahl moved Perry to second and, after a lineout, Perry came home on a single to right center by Alyssa Palmieri. Palmieri stole second, but a pop out to Oshiro at second closed the frame.

The Tigers took their first lead of the day at 2-1 in the bottom of the third. With two outs and nobody on base, Libby Goranson singled to right field and scored on a Jessica Phillips double to left center. Christian prevented further damage with a groundout to Oshiro.

In the bottom of the fourth, Memphis tacked on two more runs to go ahead 4-1. Lindahl led off with a single to right field and was replaced by pinch runner Ashleigh King. Sara Pearson followed with a bunt. Clark, the catcher, picked up the ball and threw to second, but King slid in safely, putting runners at first and second with no outs. A bunt single on a two-strike pitch to Palmieri filled the bases. Pinch hitter Jami Miller delivered a sacrifice fly to right that plated King and a groundout by Morgan Mosby drove in Pearson. A fly out to right ended the frame.

East Carolina had two runners on base in the fifth, but could not convert. After a groundout started the inning, Oshiro and Riggs hit consecutive singles to put runners on first and second. Roberts got out of trouble with a fielder's choice and pop out.

After stranding seven runners through the first five innings, the Pirates scored four times with two outs in the top of the sixth to take a 5-4 lead. Sophomore Alex Fieldhouse led off the frame with a single to right center and was replaced by pinch runner Rebecca Lee. After a foul out, Clark drew a walk and sophomore pinch hitter Abby Wynne singled through the left side to fill the bases. Jelnick flew out to left, but Oshiro followed with a two-out walk that forced in Lee. After battling for nine pitches, Riggs picked up a free pass to drive in Clark and make it a one-run game. Memphis brought in Richwood and she was greeted by a two-run single to center field from Velasquez that gave ECU the lead again. A groundout back to Richwood in the circle closed the inning.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers put the leadoff batter on third base as Laura Curtis led off with a triple to right center. Christian left her stranded on the bag, however, with two groundouts, one back to her in the circle and one to sophomore shortstop Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin, and a fly out to Lewis in right.

The second contest had Memphis go ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Curtis hit a one-out single through the left side, advanced to second on a groundout and scored on a two-out single to right center by Phillips. Smith closed the inning with a groundout.

The Tigers had another scoring opportunity in the bottom of the third, but could not convert. Ijiah Hargrove led off with a single to right center, stole second base and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mosby. Memphis tried a suicide squeeze, but Curtis popped out to Clark on the bunt attempt. A pop out to Kaluhiokalani-Glackin by Goranson ended the threat.

Through four innings, Richwood limited the Pirates to just one hit, a two-out single by Riggs in the first. In the fifth, the Pirates got the offense going after a Memphis error and tied the game at 1-1. Lewis started the frame reaching on a fielding error by Phillips at first as the ball rolled under her glove and into right field. Clark followed with a bunt, but Lewis was thrown out at second on the play. Fieldhouse laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced Clark to second with two outs. Sophomore Jasmine Robbins tied the game with a double high off the wall in left center that plated Clark. With Kaluhiokalani-Glackin at the plate, Robbins broke for third, but was caught stealing to close the frame.

Memphis retook the lead in the bottom of the inning with two runs to go ahead 3-1. Lindahl led off with a walk and was replaced by pinch runner Miller. After Miller stole second base, she moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch. Hargrove tallied her second hit of the game with an infield single and stole second. Mosby dropped down a bunt single that put runners on the corners with one out. Curtis plated Hargrove with a sacrifice fly to center field before a lineout provided the third out.

East Carolina used a two-out rally in the top of the sixth to make it a 3-2 contest. With the bases clear and two down, Jelnick singled over third base and Riggs walked. Velasquez dropped a single into shallow right field that drove in Jelnick and moved Riggs to third. Lewis lined out to center field, however, to keep it a one-run contest.

In the top of the seventh, Clark led off the frame with a home run to left that knotted the contest at 3-3. Richwood retired the next three in order with a fly out, strikeout and groundout.

After retiring the Tigers in order in the bottom of the seventh, the Pirates scored in the top of the eighth. Oshiro led off with a bunt single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Jelnick. Riggs swung at a 3-0 pitch and punched a single off the glove of Curtis at third base and into left field. Oshiro came around from second to score. With Velasquez at the plate, Riggs took off for second on a pitch in the dirt and was thrown out. A deep fly ball to center by Velasquez closed the frame.

In the bottom of the frame, Smith recorded two outs on fly balls to left before walking Phillips on four pitches. Perry entered to run for Phillips, but a groundout to Kaluhiokalani-Glackin ended the contest.

East Carolina goes for its third C-USA series sweep Sunday with a 1:00 p.m. ET contest. The Pirates have won their final three league series of the year.

Post-Game Notes
-- Freshman Sarah Christian recorded her 18th victory of the season, tied for the third most by a rookie in program history. Only Toni Paisley (21/2007) and Jami Bendle (19/1995) own more than Christian's 18.
-- In Christian's last six starts, she has gone 5-1 with a 1.68 earned run average.
-- Christian's complete game gave her 195.1 innings pitched this season, the most by a freshman in program history, surpassing Jill Rowlands' 193.0 in 1994.
-- Senior Suzanne Riggs went three-for-three in the opener and two-for-three in the second game to raise her Conference USA batting average to .400 this year. Entering this season, she was a career .256 hitter in league action.
-- Junior Kai Clark went three-for-six in the doubleheader. In her last three games, she is hitting .555 (five-for-nine) with three runs batted in.
-- During the month of April, Clark led the Pirates with a .333 batting average.
-- With a single in each game, sophomore Jill Jelnick extended her hitting streak to a season-long-matching five games.
-- With the sweep, a Sunday victory would allow the Pirates to finish the regular season at 26-26. Since the fastpitch program began in 1984, ECU has had just two losing seasons - 1989 (18-20) and 2003 (24-31).
-- East Carolina is an even .500 in Conference USA action after today's doubleheader. Since joining C-USA in 2002, the Pirates have had just four losing records in league play - 2008 (10-12), 2004 (10-14), 2003 (5-19) and 2002 (10-13).
-- The two victories improve the team's record to 6-13 in road contests and 3-8 in away C-USA games. ECU has won its last three road league tilts after dropping the first eight.
-- ECU's four runs in the top of the sixth in game one were the most by the team in an inning since pushing across five in the bottom of the sixth against Longwood on April 18.
-- The two one-run wins move the Pirates to 9-5 in one-run affairs this season. East Carolina has not finished a season more than two games above .500 in one-run decisions since a 12-5 ledger in 2008.
-- The Pirates have two wins this season when trailing after the sixth inning, the same number ECU had in the last two years combined.
-- Prior to the win in the second game, ECU had been 0-8 in road games this season when the opponent had scored first.
-- East Carolina enters the Sunday series finale with a .271 team batting average during league games. The Pirates' highest averages since joining the league in 2002 were matching .266 marks in 2009 and 2008.