Softball Set To Open 2011

UABSPORTS.COM Senior All-America Toni Paisley and the Pirates open the 2011 season Friday against Lipscomb and Illinois State.
Senior All-America Toni Paisley and the Pirates open the 2011 season Friday against Lipscomb and Illinois State.

Feb. 10, 2011

East Carolina Games 1-2: Lipscomb and Illinois State
Date Friday, Feb. 11
Time 9:00 a.m. & 11:00 a.m. ET
Location Athens, Ga. (Jack Turner Softball Stadium)
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ATHENS, Ga. - Defending Conference USA regular season and tournament champion East Carolina opens the 2011 season in Athens, Ga., with the Red & Black Showcase. This season, the Pirates are faced with the loss of six starters and seven letterwinners due to graduation and welcome a league-high 10 newcomers into the mix.

ECU opens the campaign Friday with 2010 Atlantic Sun champion Lipscomb and Missouri Valley runner-up Illinois State. The Pirates have never faced either program. Saturday, East Carolina takes on Big Ten member Iowa and host Georgia. ECU is 0-1 against the Hawkeyes and 0-2 versus the Bulldogs. To finish the weekend, the Pirates face ACC foe Maryland, which holds a 6-2 advantage in the all-time series.

The Pirates Against The Lady Bisons
East Carolina will meet Lipscomb for the first time in program history Friday morning. Last season, the Lady Bisons claimed the Atlantic Sun regular season and tournament titles and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Tuscaloosa Regional final against host Alabama before falling 6-0.

East Carolina Versus Illinois State
In another first-time matchup, the Pirates face Illinois State Friday afternoon. The two programs were actually scheduled to open the 2010 season against each other at the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Clearwater, Fla., but rain forced a schedule change and the teams did not meet.

This season, the Redbirds return 11 letterwinners, six starters and all three pitchers from last year's 32-20 team that finished second during the regular season in the Missouri Valley Conference. Leading the squad are a pair of senior third-team All-America selections in second baseman Kara Nelson (.395 BA in 2010) and third baseman Abby Olson (school-record 19 homers a year ago).

ECU In First-Time Meetings
The Pirates will face a pair of opponents Friday they have never played before. Since 2006, East Carolina has gone 17-11 when facing a team for the first time. A year ago, ECU went 4-5 in such meetings. The Pirates defeated Cal State Fullerton 2-0 and UC Davis 4-0 while at the Cal Round Robin in Berkeley, Calif., Seattle 9-0 at the Bank of Hawai'i Invitational Tournament in Honolulu and Morehead State 6-3 at the Pirate Classic. On the other hand, ECU fell to No. 3 Florida 4-3, Kansas 3-1, No. 1 Washington 6-0, Hawai'i 10-0 and Fresno State 1-0.

Paisley Listed On ASA Top-50 Watch List And Named Preseason Conference USA Pitcher-Of-The-Year
Following a standout year in which she was named to the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I All-America Third Team and repeated as a Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I All-Region Team member, Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Year and First-Team All-C-USA selection, senior Toni Paisley has earned a spot on the Amateur Softball Association of America Watch List for the 10th Annual Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award and been named the league's preseason pitcher-of-the-year as a senior.

Last season, the Lakewood, Calif., native recorded 22 solo shutouts -- the second-highest total in the nation. She finished the year ranked fourth in the NCAA in earned run average (1.09), 10th in strikeouts (East Carolina single-season record 356), 11th in hits allowed per seven innings (3.89) and 14th in victories (33).

Preseason No. 2 In Conference USA
In addition to Paisley's individual honor, the Pirates were picked to finish second in C-USA, trailing Houston in the preseason poll by just seven points. UH and ECU each picked up three first-place votes to lead the way while the top four teams in the voting were separated by only nine points.

Pirates Receive National Preseason Recognition
East Carolina received votes in both the USA Today/NFCA (four) and Softball (two) preseason polls. ECU has not entered the Top 25 of USA Today/NFCA poll since 2000 and has never entered the Softball poll.

New Faces ... Everywhere
A year ago East Carolina used the experience of seven seniors, six who regularly started, to win 44 games as well as the program's first Conference USA regular season and tournament titles.

This season the Pirates have just two seniors, Paisley and Sissy Jimenez, and welcome a Conference USA-high 10 freshmen. Up to seven of the 10 could start for the Pirates and all are expected to experience significant playing time. As a team, East Carolina returns just 23.7 percent of its runs scored, 26.2 percent of its hits and 35.5 percent of its runs batted in from the 2010 campaign.