April 14, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina (29-15, 9-6 C-USA) heads into the final stretch of the Conference USA season with a weekend trip to first-place UAB (30-11, 11-1 C-USA). UAB was one of just two C-USA schools to win the series against the Pirates last season.
Wednesday against rival N.C. State, the Pirates dropped a pair of one-run decisions, falling 2-1 and 5-4 in 10 innings. Freshman Jill Jelnick delivered ECU's only run of the first game with a bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning. In the second contest, senior Sissy Jimenez drove in two runs and scored another to lead the offense. Freshman Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin also picked up a pair of singles.
The Pirates Against The Blazers
East Carolina holds a slim 16-15 advantage in the all-time series that began in 2002 when the Pirates joined Conference USA. The Blazers won six of the first seven meetings before the Pirates took seven of the next eight in 2004 and 2005. Most recently, ECU has claimed five of the last seven contests. The road team has won the last two series as the Pirates swept the Blazers in Birmingham in 2009, but UAB returned the favor last season in Greenville, taking both Saturday games, 2-0 in 11 innings and 5-0, before losing the Sunday finale 2-0.
A year ago, the teams were tied 0-0 in the opener until the top of the 11th, when Sallie Van Kirk hit a two-out triple to right center to drive in the game's only runs. In the second contest, Mandy Lowman and Kate Armstrong each drove in two runs and hit a home run to power the offense. ECU avoided the sweep Sunday with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Kaui Tom had an RBI single and Jimenez plated Tom with a double to right center.
During East Carolina's last trip to Birmingham, the Pirates picked up a pair of 3-1 Saturday wins and a 2-1 Sunday triumph. In game one, UAB's Catherine Douglass hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 1-1 before Cristen Aona and Sarah Bibee drove in runs in the top of the eighth to lift ECU to the win. Game two had Jessica Johnson hit a two-run home run in the first inning to back Brooke Swann's pitching effort that held UAB to four hits. Aona and Johnson each drove in a run during the finale as Toni Paisley limited the Blazers to one run on four hits.
When Playing The Top
UAB enters this weekend's series alone in first in the Conference USA standings. Three times since the start of the 2008 season, East Carolina has played a C-USA series against a team in first, or tied for first, in the league standings. In those contests, the Pirates have gone 7-2. A closer look at ECU's last three series against first-place foes:
|March 26-27, 2011
|April 2-3, 2010
|April 2-5, 2009
This weekend's series at UAB will feature two of the best pitching staffs in the nation. Through April 10 games, UAB's 1.46 earned run average ranked ninth among all NCAA Division I programs. The Pirates' 1.50 ERA checked in 12th. After midweek action, the Blazers own a 1.50-1.55 edge over ECU in team ERA.
The Pirates are holding their opponents to a .190 batting average while UAB foes are hitting .202 versus the Blazer staff.
Kee Prepares For No. 650
East Carolina head coach Tracey Kee, in her 15th season leading the Pirates, is just three wins away from 650 in her career. The two-time defending Conference USA Coach-of-the-Year has 647 victories heading into this weekend's action. She is looking to become the 37th active coach to reach the 650-victory plateau.
The Richmond, Va., native began the season ranked 43rd among all Division I active coaches in career victories (618) and 30th in winning percentage (.664).
A Steady Right Hand
Natalie Kozlowski has been Kee's associate head coach the last five years and the top assistant for the six previous years at East Carolina. Kozlowski has been a vital part of Kee's success and is just five victories shy of 450 in her Pirate career.
Almost 30 For Eight-Straight Years
The Pirates enter this weekend with 29 wins this season. One more and ECU would have eight-straight years, and 19 in the last 20, reaching the 30-win plateau. The only campaign ECU failed to reach 30 triumphs during the stretch was in 2003, when the squad went 24-31.
Within Conference USA, only Tulsa has a longer active streak of 30-win seasons with 10. The only other C-USA program to have won 30 or more games in both of the last two years is UAB.
Oh, So Close
Of East Carolina's 15 losses this season, 10 have been by one run and three have been by two runs. During those 13 close setbacks, the Pirates have had the game-tying run on base in the final inning 11 times. The two times ECU did not - a 2-1 walk-off win by UNC Wilmington where the Pirates did not have a chance to answer and a 3-1 loss to Maryland Feb. 13, when East Carolina had the tying run up to bat with a runner on first. A breakdown of just how close ECU has been to tying the contests:
Ended final inning with
Tying run on first: 4 times
Tying run on second: 4 times
Tying run on third: 1 time
Ended final inning with
Tying run on first: 1 time
Tying run on second: 1 time
Tied At The Top Of C-USA
Paisley heads into the series at UAB tied for the top spot on the Conference USA career record charts in three categories. She has 108 victories, tied with DePaul's Lindsay Chouinard (2000-03) for first place.
Paisley and Chouinard have each pitched 975.0 innings, tied for the most in league history. Finally, Paisley and former pitching coach and 2007 teammate Keli Harrell have 167 appearances in their careers.
Paisley already owns the league's career strikeout mark with 1,156.