May 3, 2012
|East Carolina Games 50-51: Memphis
Saturday, May 5| 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. ET
Memphis, Tenn. (Tiger Softball Complex)
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GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina will complete the Conference USA regular season this weekend with three games at Memphis (19-34, 7-14 C-USA). The teams play a 2:00 p.m. ET doubleheader Saturday and finish with a 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday matchup. The Pirates (23-26, 9-11 C-USA) enter the series having won seven of their last eight contests, putting together their most successful stretch since a nine-game winning streak from Feb. 19-March 4, 2011.
Last weekend against Marshall, ECU suffered an 8-0 setback in the series opener, but bounced back to claim 3-2 and 3-0 victories in the next two games. During game one, the Thundering Herd's Andi Williamson limited the Pirates to just one hit, a seventh-inning single. In the second contest, East Carolina sophomore Jasmine Robbins hit a two-run double in the bottom of the first and classmate Kristi Oshiro added an RBI single in the second as the Pirates held on for the win. Freshman pitcher Sarah Christian recorded the win Saturday and tossed the first Conference USA shutout of her career Sunday in the finale. A two-run single by junior Kai Clark in the fourth inning and a run-scoring double by senior Suzanne Riggs in the fifth provided the ECU offense.
The Pirates Against The Tigers
East Carolina owns a 13-5 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 12 of the last 14 contests while outscoring the Tigers 59-22. The teams have played eight times in Memphis, with ECU winning the last five after dropping two of the first three.
Last year in Greenville during the regular season, the Pirates split the Saturday doubleheader with a 4-1 win and 2-1 loss before falling 1-0 in the finale. In the opener, Clark drove in two runs and scored another while Oshiro delivered the winning run with a third-inning double. During the second contest, ECU rallied with a run in the seventh but could not tie the contest. Jessica Phillips and Ashleigh King tallied RBI for the Tigers and Lauren Carley picked up the win with Janelle Valle recording the save. In the Sunday finale, Valle limited the Pirates to just one hit, a first-inning single. East Carolina was able to put the tying run on first base in the seventh, but the Tigers made Phillips' fourth-inning RBI single stand. Two months later in Greenville for the first round of the C-USA Tournament, the Pirates won 5-1 as a two-out, two-run double from Jordan Lewis broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning. Priscilla Velasquez drove in three runs and Toni Paisley struck out 10 and scattered three hits.
During the last trip to Memphis, on the final weekend of the 2010 campaign, 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 two runs and Marina Gusman-Brown hit a solo homer to provide a 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.
A Chance For .500 Overall
With two wins over Marshall last weekend, East Carolina upped its record to 23-26. Three victories over Memphis would put the Pirates in position for their ninth-straight nonlosing season. Since the fastpitch program began in 1984, ECU has finished with a losing record only two times - an 18-20 ledger in 1989 and a 24-31 mark in 2003.
And Aiming For Above .500 In League Action
ECU enters the final weekend of the Conference USA regular season with a 9-11 record in league play. Since joining C-USA in 2002, ECU has finished below .500 in league action only four times, the last a 10-12 mark in 2008, when the team made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999. ECU's other nonwinning C-USA campaigns were the first three it was in the league, going 10-13 in 2002, 5-19 in 2003 and 10-14 in 2004.
Seeding Still Up For Grabs
Depending on the results from this weekend's Conference USA games, the Pirates could enter the league tournament as high as the fourth seed or as low as the eighth. A year ago, when the Pirates won their second-straight C-USA Tournament title, the squad finished fifth with a 14-10 league record.
On The Hunt For Road Wins
East Carolina took two of three from Marshall last weekend to wrap up the home portion of the season with a 15-6 record and an 8-3 mark versus Conference USA foes in Greenville.
The road has not been so kind to the Pirates this season, however, as they are 8-20 in road or neutral games and 4-13 in true road tilts. In the team's first three C-USA road series, it has gone 1-8, being swept by Tulsa and UCF and winning the finale at Houston.
Too Much To Overcome
Contributing to ECU's road struggles has been a tendency to fall behind early. The Pirates have been outscored 44-20 during the first two innings of road contests and are 0-8 when the opponent scores the initial run of a road game.
Hitting For The Best Offense Since Joining C-USA
With three Conference USA games remaining on the schedule, East Carolina enters the series at Memphis hitting .268 as a team. The mark is a large improvement from a year ago, when the Pirates posted a .205 batting average in league play. If ECU can keep up the strong performances at the plate this weekend, it will turn in the highest batting average in league play since joining C-USA in 2002. The previous top five:
|Year||C-USA Batting Average|
Blazing A New Trail
While the Pirates' offense has been fairly steady all year, the team's two pitchers, freshmen Christian and Courtney Smith, seemed to turn the corner during the home series against UAB. In those three matchups, the Blazers were held to just eight total runs. During the previous 36 games, foes were averaging 5.1 runs a contest. In the 13 tilts since the UAB series began, opponents have scored more than five runs in a game only three times. This weekend, Christian and Smith square off against a Memphis team that is averaging just 2.3 runs per Conference USA matchup. A closer look at ECU's pitching production before and since the beginning of the series with the Blazers:
|UAB and After||.615||3.13||7.5||0.7||0.4|
Christian Approaching The Freshman Wins Record
Last weekend against Marshall, Christian recorded the victories in games two and three. The pair of wins increased her season total to 17, tied for third in Conference USA. The Greenville product is only the fourth rookie in East Carolina program history to tally 17 or more triumphs, trailing Paisley (21/2007), Jami Bendle (19/1995) and Jill Rowlands (18/1994).
Christian's 188.1 innings pitched are also the third-highest total by a Pirate freshman. Rowlands holds the mark with 193.0 and Paisley checks in second with 191.1.
Picking Up Where She Left Off
As a freshman in 2011, Jill Jelnick hit .295 with a .300 mark in Conference USA action. She got hot toward the end of the campaign, batting .395 in the 15 games prior to the NCAA Tournament and making the Conference USA Second Team, as well as the league's all-tournament and all-freshman squads. The Aliso Viejo, Calif., product has kept hitting in 2012, leading the Pirates with a .329 average and 49 hits. In league play, she is second on the team with a .328 average and paces the squad with 20 hits.
In Jelnick's last 23 contests, she has 10 multiple-hit games and owns an ECU-high 14 this year, five more than she tallied a year ago.
Riggs Finishing Strong
Playing her last Conference USA home game, Riggs made the most of it, driving in the final run in the Pirates' 3-0 victory and throwing out Marshall's Amanda Lara at the plate to end the top of the first.
This season, Riggs leads the team with eight home runs, 30 runs batted in, a .574 slugging percentage, a .438 on-base percentage and 25 walks. The eight home runs are one shy of making the Pirates' single-season top-10 list. ECU Hall of Fame member Isonette Polonius holds the one-year record with 18 long balls in 1999. Polonius (1997) is tied with Keisha Shepperson (2000) for 10th on the ledger with nine homers.
In only C-USA action, Riggs ranks fifth in the league in slugging percentage (.612), sixth in batting average (.347) and on-base percentage (.468) and tied for seventh in walks (12).