March 2, 2012
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina begins its week of spring break with a trip to Fullerton, Calif., to take part in the DeMarini Invitational. The Pirates open play at the tournament Saturday with No. 2 California (12-0) at 12:00 p.m. ET and follow with a clash against Northwestern (5-8) at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Wrapping up the event on Sunday, ECU faces Indiana (7-7) at 2:15 p.m. ET and takes on No. 11 Stanford (13-3) at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Last weekend at the Easton Bama Bash, the Pirates went 2-3, downing SIU Edwardsville twice, falling to Alabama twice and dropping the tournament finale to North Dakota State. Sophomores Jill Jelnick and Alex Fieldhouse led the offense with Jelnick batting .500 and collecting a career-high four hits against North Dakota State on Sunday. Fieldhouse drove in the game-winning run in both victories and tallied a team second-best five hits. In the circle, freshman Courtney Smith earned a win and her second save of the season while classmate Sarah Christian also recorded a victory.
The Pirates Against The Golden Bears
The all-time series between East Carolina and California is tied 1-1 as the teams split two games when the Golden Bears came to Greenville in 2006. Cal took game one 5-4 on March 24, but ECU gained an 8-3 victory March 26. In the first contest, the Pirates held a 4-2 lead in the top of the sixth, but a bases-loaded double by Katie Vickers lifted the Golden Bears to the one-run victory. California, No. 7 at the time, is the highest-ranked opponent the Pirates have ever defeated. The victory had all eight ECU runs coming via home runs as Jessica Johnson, Paige Baggett and Alison Monce went deep.
This season second-ranked Cal is led by redshirt senior Valerie Arioto, one of 30 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award and the Feb. 14 USA Softball Player-of-the-Week. Arioto sports a 0.22 earned run average as well as a .520 batting average with eight home runs and 22 RBI.
East Carolina Versus Northwestern
In the only meeting between the two programs, the Wildcats claimed a 4-1 victory over the Pirates on Feb. 26, 1995. The contest was part of the Lady Pirate Invitational in Greenville.
For the Wildcats this season, junior Emily Allard leads the way on offense with a .481 batting average, 25 hits and 12 runs scored. In the circle, junior Meghan Lamberth and freshman Amy Letourneau have split the majority of the starts with Lamberth going 2-2 with a 3.23 earned run average and Letourneau at 3-5 with a 7.54 ERA.
The Pirates And The Pacific-12 And Big Ten Conferences
In program history, East Carolina is 1-5 against current members
of the Pacific-12 Conference such as California and Stanford. The Pirates have gone 18-35 facing Big Ten Conference teams including Northwestern and Indiana.
Playing Ranked Opponents, Again
The Pirates have played three games against ranked foes this season and dropped all three, falling to No. 21 Louisville 5-0 and No. 2 Alabama 4-2 and 9-4. The schedule does not get any easier this weekend with games against No. 2 California and No. 11 Stanford.
Next weekend at the Diamond Devil Invitational, ECU is scheduled to face defending national champion and current No. 5 Arizona State.
A year ago, East Carolina played just two regular-season contests against ranked opponents. In 2010, the Pirates faced five ranked teams during the regular season. In regular and post-season contests since 2008, ECU is 3-27 against ranked foes.
Runs Against Ranked Foes
ECU's four runs against No. 2 Alabama on Saturday afternoon were the most the Pirates had scored against a ranked team since putting up four versus No. 18 Virginia Tech on April 29, 2008.
The six runs pushed across in two games against the Tide were one fewer than the Pirates had tallied in their 12 previous contests against ranked opponents. In those 12 games, ECU had been blanked nine times.
Reservations For Three At Home
This weekend's spring break trip to Fullerton, Calif., will represent a homecoming of sorts for two Pirate players who grew up within 10 miles of the city and another who hails from around 30 miles away. Junior Cicely Lopez and Fieldhouse were high school opponents at Loara and Rosary, respectively, with both schools within 10 minutes of Cal State Fullerton's campus. Jelnick also grew up in Orange County, attending Aliso Niguel High School, just 28 miles from Fullerton.
And Four More Returning To Their Home State
In addition to those three ECU players being very close to home, four more Pirates will return to their home state this weekend as senior Priscilla Velasquez, sophomore Jordan Lewis, freshman Sara Pacioni and Smith hail from the Golden State.
Lewis grew up in Fremont, just 20 miles from Stanford, while Pacioni is from Danville, only 19 miles from Cal's campus.
I Know You
With the homecoming connections, Fieldhouse will recognize some familiar faces on an opposing team this weekend. She was travel ball teammates with Northwestern's Marisa Bast, Letourneau and Kristin Sharkey on the So Cal Explosion Gold, which took 25th-place at the 2009 ASA Gold Nationals.
When facing a 2-2 count this season, sophomore Rebecca Lee is batting .600 and classmate Jasmine Robbins is hitting .400.
Different Year, Different Expectations From The Circle
With a two-person pitching staff that consisted of senior All-America Toni Paisley and junior Faith Sutton, the Pirates had a heavy dose of experience on their side in the circle a year ago as they broke in six freshmen starters. The pitching ability played a large role in East Carolina winning its second-straight Conference USA Tournament title.
This year's club returns eight position starters, but the two-woman pitching staff is freshmen Smith and Christian. Each has pitched in three games against ranked opponents and developed on the job while leaning on experienced teammates. A closer look at the pitching stats through 13 games the last two seasons:
Through 13 games in 2011, ECU played only one game against a ranked team. The Pirates' record in 2011 was 9-4 and is 7-6 in 2012.