March 11, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina moves into the second portion of its season this weekend with the beginning of Conference USA action. The Pirates (18-6) open their regular-season league title defense against Memphis (13-4). The teams play a doubleheader Saturday starting at 1:00 p.m. and complete the weekend with a 12:00 p.m. contest Sunday.
Earlier this week, the Pirates split a doubleheader at Maryland Wednesday before downing Maine 2-0 Thursday. In game one against the Terrapins, freshman Jordan Lewis drove in the game-tying run in the top of the seventh and scored the winner on a wild pitch later in the frame. In the nightcap, ECU trailed 4-0 before making it 4-2 and loading the bases with two outs in the seventh. Thursday against Maine, East Carolina scored twice in the bottom of the fourth on a double by junior Suzanne Riggs. Senior Toni Paisley threw the 50th shutout of her career.
The Pirates Against The Tigers
East Carolina owns an 11-3 advantage in the all-time series, which began in 2006 when Memphis started its softball program. After dropping three of the first four meetings, the Pirates have won the last 10 contests while outscoring the Tigers 49-17, and 22-2 in the six most recent victories.
In Memphis' last visit to Greenville, in 2009, East Carolina recorded 2-0, 2-1 and 6-1 triumphs. In game one, Kaui Tom and Charina Sumner delivered RBI singles in the fifth inning to back Paisley's blanking. The Pirates trailed 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh in the second contest but came back as Marina Gusman-Brown and Sarah Bibee each singled home a run for the walk-off win. In the series finale, Cristen Aona had three RBI and scored a run. Gusman-Brown and Tom also each drove in a run during Paisley's third win of the weekend.
Last season at Memphis, ECU claimed its first Conference USA regular season title with a three-game sweep in which Paisley and Faith Sutton did not allow a run. In the opener, Vanessa Moreno drove in a pair of runs and Gusman-Brown hit a solo homer to provide all the runs in the 3-0 victory. Game two had Moreno finish with three RBI and Gusman-Brown hit another long ball as the Pirates used a five-run fourth inning to cruise to an 8-0 victory. ECU won the Sunday finale 1-0 on a first-inning RBI single by Gusman-Brown.
And The Defense Begins
For the first time in program history, East Carolina will be trying to defend its Conference USA regular season title. A year ago, the Pirates won their initial league championship after posting a 16-5 record. With the No. 1 seed, ECU went on to claim its first C-USA Tournament crown, topping UCF 3-1 in the title tilt.
ECU In C-USA Openers
Since joining Conference USA in 2002, East Carolina has gone 14-13 in league-opening series. In the last four seasons the Pirates are 9-3 during such series. The only time ECU has swept its first C-USA series was in 2007, when the Pirates topped UCF.
Kee Closing In On 650
East Carolina head coach Tracey Kee, in her 15th season leading the Pirates, is approaching yet another milestone. The two-time defending Conference USA Coach-of-the-Year enters this weekend with 636 career. Kee began the season ranked 43rd among all Division I active coaches in career victories (618) and 30th in winning percentage (.664).
Paisley Shuts Down Conference Foes
Paisley returns to Conference USA action this weekend after dominating the league in 2010 and earning her second-straight CUSA Pitcher-of-the-Year award. Last season, she recorded 13 league victories with 12 being solo or combined shutouts. She allowed runs in only three league starts: in a 4-3, nine-inning triumph in the series opener against Marshall, in a 2-0, 11-inning loss in game one to UAB and in a 4-2 setback at Houston in the series finale. The Thundering Herd contest was the Pirates' CUSA opener, making Paisley's final 12 league wins shutouts.
Sutton's C-USA Success
The start of Conference USA play was not kind to Sutton last season as she began her initial season playing for East Carolina at 0-2 with a 6.00 earned run average in league action. She was able to turn it around during her final four starts against C-USA foes, tossing three complete games and a pair of solo shutouts. The Greenville native went 3-1 with a 1.12 ERA during the stretch.
Riggs Bounces Back
After struggling through a 3-17 slump in which she did not score or drive in a run, Riggs broke out with a 2-2, two RBI game against Maine Thursday evening. Riggs drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run double over the head of the center fielder to lead the Pirates to a 2-0 victory.
For the season, Riggs paces East Carolina with 19 runs batted in, including a squad-best five game-winning RBI.
What A Way To Start
The last seven times freshman Kristi Oshiro led off a game, she successfully reached base via three singles, three walks and a fielding error. During the stretch, ECU scored four times in the first. This season, the Pirates score 55.6 percent of the time (10-of-18) when Oshiro reaches base to start an inning.
Jelnick Stepping Up
Freshman Jill Jelnick started the first game of the season, Feb. 11 against Lipscomb, but after an 0-4, two-error performance, Jelnick did not crack the starting lineup again until Feb. 26 versus Fairfield. Since the contest against the Stags, she has raised her batting average from .154 to .306, collected nine hits, drawn four walks and stolen five bases. The Aliso Viejo, Calif., native has started eight of the last 11 games at second base while scoring five times and driving in five more runs.
The Right Moment For Medina
Freshman Mahrisch Medina went the first 16 games of her career without driving in a run, but she delivered a big RBI for the Pirates when they needed one. Entering as a pinch hitter in the top of the sixth inning in game one at Maryland Wednesday, Medina singled past the outstretched glove of first baseman Candice Beards and over the bag to drive in classmate Abby Wynne to break a scoreless tie and put ECU ahead 1-0.
Medina's first RBI was part of a stretch of solid play that has seen her average jump from .062 to .194 in the last nine contests.