May 2, 2006
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East Carolina will close out the 2006 regular season at Conference USA newcomer UCF this weekend with hopes of securing a birth in the league's postseason tournament. The Pirates moved from seventh into fifth place in the Conference USA standings by virtue of its three-game sweep of Southern Miss this past weekend.
ECU and Southern Miss own identical conference records of 10-11 with the Pirates holding the tie-breaker advantage. Memphis trails the duo by a half-game with a league mark of 9-11, having played one less game than ECU or Southern Miss. Only the top six teams in the final regular season standings qualify for the league's postseason tournament in Tulsa, Okla.., May 11-13.
East Carolina can secure a tournament spots by sweeping or taking two-of-three in its final C-USA series, coupled with at least one Memphis loss. The Pirates can also secure a bid by winning just one more game than Southern Miss, who hosts Tulsa this weekend.
The Pirates will be looking for their first Conference USA road series victory of the year. ECU won the first game of each of its three previous league road series before dropping the final two games. The Pirates are 3-6 on the road in conference play this weekend. This weekend's series will mark the first meetings between East Carolina and UCF.
Scouting The UCF Golden Knights
The Golden Knights enter the final weekend of the regular season residing in last place with a 4-17 conference record. UCF is 4-2 in its past two conference series taking two-of-three from both Memphis and UTEP.
Junior Cici Alvarez is UCF's top hitter with a .336 batting average, starting all 51 of the Golden Knight's games. Fellow junior Kacie Feaster leads the team with five home runs, while freshman Breanne Javier is its top run producer, driving in 23 runs.
Sophomore Allison Kime is the Golden Knight's No. 1 starter, making 28 starts and 36 overall appearances. She has compiled a 13-15 record with 201 strikeouts in 201.2 innings pitched. Ashley Baker and Magon Paul have each made 10 starts and have a combined record of 4-15.
Pirates Break Out Brooms Against USM And UTEP
East Carolina completed its first-ever three-game series sweep of Southern Miss this past weekend to record its second series sweep of the season. The Pirates also swept UTEP at home earlier in the year. ECU had recorded just two victories in 15 previous game against Southern Miss prior to the weekend.
ECU won all three of its games against Southern Miss in walk-off fashion with Jessica Johnson, Beth Nolan and Erin St. Ledger each collecting game-winning hits. Nolan and St. Ledger's game-winning hits came in extra innings, while Johnson propelled the Pirates to victory in the bottom of the seventh of game one.
Underclassmen Swinging Hot Bats In C-USA
Sophomores Beth Nolan and Erin St. Ledger each ranks among the league leaders in batting in conference games only. St. Ledger ranks seventh with a .345 average, while Nolan is behind her in eighth with a .339 clip. St. Ledger's average against league opponents is nearly 20 higher than her overall average (.327), while Nolan's average against conference foes is almost 100 points better than her overall average (.240).
Calendar Change Brings Baggett's Bat To Life
Sophomore Paige Baggett appears to have broken out of a season-long slump. At the end of March she was hitting .227. Since the calendar changed, Baggett has batted .321 in the past 20 games, hitting safely in 14 of 20 games played. She has hit safely in 14 of the past 16 games, including 11 consecutive games before her streak was broken in game two of the Memphis series. Over the past 16 games she is batting .400 (18-for-45). The longest hitting streak of the season by any Pirate, Baggett has raised her average from .198 on April 4 to .267 on April 30. She has struck out just once in her last 39 plate appearances, while drawing five base-on-balls.
Moreno Making Contributions As A Rookie
Freshman Vanessa Moreno appears to have hit her stride late in the season. Currently in the midst of a six-game hitting streak, hitting .381 (8-for-21) with a home run and three RBIs. She has hit safely in 10 of the past 11 games and raised her batting average 22 points during that stretch from .238 to .260. Moreno went 5-for-12 (.417) with a lead-off home run this past weekend against Southern Miss.
The Return Of The Home Run
Entering the Pirate Invitational, East Carolina had hit just four home runs in its first 32 games. Since that time, ECU has quadrupled its season home run total. The Pirates have hit 16 home runs in their last 26 games. Freshman Vanessa Moreno leads the team with four long balls, while senior Krista Jessup, sophomore Beth Nolan and freshman Jessica Johnson have each hit three home runs this season. Paige Baggett, Alison Monce and Joyce Roodenburg have each touched `em all twice.
Swann Among League's Top Rookies
Freshman Brooke Swann has been one of the league's top rookie pitchers this season. She currently leads the league with a 1.48 ERA and fourth with a .198 opposing batting average. She also has the second lowest ERA among all pitchers in conference games only.