June 17, 2011
2011 Review In Photos | 2011 Highlight Video
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history, the East Carolina softball team followed with another strong campaign in 2011. The Pirates welcomed 10 freshmen to the squad, but still repeated as Conference USA Tournament champions and NCAA Tournament regional finalists.
Eliminating East Carolina 1-0 in the College Park Regional championship was Baylor, which advanced to the Women's College World Series semifinals.
Below are some highlights from the 2011 season.
East Carolina claimed the Conference USA Tournament title with a 4-1 victory over Tulsa May 14. The win enabled the Pirates to become the first C-USA program since DePaul in 2004-05, during its run of four-straight championships from 2002-05, to win consecutive post-season crowns.
The triumph also marked the first time ECU softball has won two-straight tournament titles in any conference since the fastpitch program began in 1984. The Pirates took three consecutive regular season Big South titles from 1997-99.
Six Straight In Tournament Play
Back-to-back tournament titles makes it six-straight wins for East Carolina in Conference USA Championship action. The streak is the second longest ever by a C-USA squad in post-season play, trailing only DePaul's seven consecutive victories during the 2004-05 tournaments. The Blue Demons also ripped off six-straight wins in the 2002-03 events.
During the 2010 C-USA tournament, ECU defeated the No. 8 seed Southern Miss 8-0, No. 5 Houston 4-0 and No. 3 UCF 3-1. This season's route to the title was filled with higher seeds as the Pirates downed No. 4 Memphis 5-1, No. 1 Houston 1-0 and No. 2 Tulsa 4-1.
The Lowest-Seeded C-USA Champion
Entering the Conference USA Tournament as the No. 5 seed, ECU become the lowest entry to ever win the post-season crown. The previous low was DePaul as the No. 4 seed in 2004, when the Blue Demons topped No. 5 Houston 4-2.
A Home Turnaround
The Pirates became the first host squad to capture the Conference USA Tournament crown since Tulsa in 2006. In the process, East Carolina turned around its home record against C-USA foes. The Pirates went 4-8 against league opponents at the new ECU Softball Stadium during the regular season and had not won back-to-back home contests, but took three straight en route to the championship.
The Pirates played all three teams they defeated on the title run at home during the regular season and went a combined 3-6 against them, including a three-game sweep at the hands of Houston.
A Second Visit To College Park
The league tournament championship gave ECU Conference USA's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Pirates traveled to College Park, Md., for the second time in 2011 after splitting a doubleheader with Maryland in March. At the regional, the Pirates won their NCAA tournament opener for the first time, downing the Terrapins 5-1. Following its win over Maryland, ECU fell to Baylor 2-0. The Pirates then defeated the Terrapins again, this time by a 2-0 score, to advance to the regional final and earn a rematch with the Bears.
NCAA Tournament Success
The last victory over Maryland marked the second-straight year East Carolina has eliminated the host school from its regional. Back-to-back regional final appearances made ECU one of only two C-USA schools (Houston/2007-08) to play on the final day of the regional two-straight years since the tournament went to the regional-super regional-Women's College World Series format in 2005.
East Carolina ended the 2011 season receiving votes in both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball final polls. The Pirates tallied 12 votes in the USA Today/NFCA poll and eight in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. The votes are the most the program received during the 2011 campaign.
Following the 2010 season, ECU tallied eight votes in the USA Today/NFCA poll and three in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll.
A Sign Of Things To Come?
The Pirates claimed their second-straight C-USA Tournament title after losing seven seniors (six starters) from the 2010 squad. The 2011 unit consisted of 10 freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors and two seniors. Since the 2004 league championship, no title winner has had more than five freshmen.
The youthful success continued in the College Park Regional, as East Carolina's starting lineup for the final against Baylor consisted of eight freshmen. Since the NCAA Tournament went to the regional-super regional-Women's College World Series format in 2005, no other program had started more than five freshmen in a regional final contest. The Pirates lost to Baylor 1-0 as the Bears went on to advance to the Women's College World Series semifinals.
Most Freshmen Starters In A Regional Final Game
||Cal State Fullerton
Reaching 40 ... Again
The Pirates ended the campaign with a 41-22 record, reaching the 40-win plateau for the third-straight season. ECU became the first C-USA program with three consecutive campaigns of 40 wins or more since Houston from 2006-08 and only the fourth in the history of the league (USF/2003-05; DePaul/2000-03).
Wins Since 2009
Over the last three seasons, East Carolina has also been the winningest program in Conference USA and one of the most successful in the region. Since the start of 2009, the Pirates have recorded 125 victories. Tulsa is second among league programs with 117 triumphs. Among teams in the region, ECU is second only to Louisville's 127 wins.
East Carolina And The RPI
With the final RPI release by the NCAA, East Carolina finished 33rd. The RPI ranks teams based on wins, losses and strength of schedule. In 2011, the Pirates went 13-15 against teams in the top 50 of the RPI. A year ago, ECU had six wins versus the top 50.
East Carolina finished the 2011 season 6-4 against teams ranked 51-100 and 22-3 from 101 to the end of the rankings. Away from Greenville, the Pirates captured three road triumphs at Maryland (RPI: 32), two over UAB (RPI: 38) and one in Longwood (RPI: 45). At home, ECU defeated Tulsa four times (RPI: 27), Memphis twice (RPI: 44) and Houston once (RPI: 20).
Velasquez Named Conference USA Tournament MVP
After three games in which she drove in seven total runs, Priscilla Velasquez was named the 2011 Conference USA Tournament Most Valuable Player. Velasquez drove in three runs during the opener against Memphis. In the championship game, she accounted for all of the Pirates' runs with a bases-loaded walk and three-run home run, giving her a career-high four RBI. The third-inning long ball was her first of the season and just the third of her career.
Five Conference USA All-Tournament Picks
Joining Velasquez on the Conference USA All-Tournament Team were senior Toni Paisley and a trio of freshmen in Alex Fieldhouse, Jill Jelnick and Jordan Lewis. Paisley went 3-0 with a 0.67 ERA during the tournament and struck out 21. Fieldhouse hit the game-winning home run against Houston in the semifinals as ECU won 1-0. Jelnick paced the Pirates with four hits and a .444 batting average to go along with two runs scored. Lewis tallied a team second-best three hits and drove in the game-winning run against Memphis in the opening round.
Paisley Wins Third Straight Pitcher-of-the-Year Award
Paisley repeated as the Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Year for the third-straight season, joining Houston's Angel Shamblin (2006-08) as the only hurlers in league history to take home the top award in three consecutive campaigns. Paisley posted a 12-5 conference mark with a 0.90 earned run average. She led the league in overall and C-USA wins and strikeouts while becoming the league's all-time leader in victories (118), whiffs (1,290), innings pitched (1,088.0) and appearances (183).
Six More All-Conference USA Selections
Paisley was ECU's only First-Team All-Conference USA honoree, but a trio of Pirates made the second team: senior Sissy Jimenez, junior Suzanne Riggs and freshman Jelnick. East Carolina also tied Louisville's 2004 squad for the most C-USA All-Freshman Team honorees in a season in league history as Jelnick, Lewis, Kristi Oshiro and Jasmine Robbins were named to the group.
An All-Region And All-District Honoree
Paisley was named to the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I Mideast All-Region First Team as well as the Capital One Academic All-District 3 Second Team. Academically, Paisley is a five-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll (3.0+ GPA), a 2010-11 C-USA Softball All-Academic Team selection and a top-30 candidate for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. She is a 2010 graduate of East Carolina with a bachelor's degree in social work and has interned as a case manager with Pitt County Schools working with students on legal probation and whose goals are to have perfect attendance and graduate from high school.
Top 25 Finalist For ASA Award
In addition, Paisley received national attention as one of the Top 25 Finalists for the Amateur Softball Association of America's 2011 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. The honor, considered the most prestigious in Division I women's collegiate softball, recognizes outstanding athletic achievement by players across the country. Paisley was the lone representative from C-USA and was one of just two players outside a power-six conference to make the final 25 list.
Paisley Breaks Own Strikeout Mark
Paisley finished the year breaking her own ECU single-season strikeout record with 396 whiffs in 313.1 innings. In 2010, Paisley tallied 356 strikeouts in 277.0 frames.
Up To 17th In NCAA Division I History
Paisley's record 396 strikeouts in 2011 pushed her career total to 1,290. She finished 17th on the NCAA Division I all-time whiff list.
And 18th In Career Wins
Paisley's 32 wins for the season gave her 118 in her career, good for 18th on the NCAA Division I record chart. Paisley ended her career with a 118-39 record, which is a .752 winning percentage.
Debuting At Better Than 35-35-35
Oshiro was an important cog in the Pirate offense all season, tallying team-best marks with 58 hits, 40 walks and 37 runs scored. She became the first ECU player to have more than 35 in all three categories since Kate Manuse (77 H/55 BB/40 R) in 2005. Oshiro, however, accomplished the feat in 63 games while Manuse played 74 contests in 2005.