March 30, 2012
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Taking a season-high five-game winning streak to Orlando, East Carolina (15-17, 3-3 C-USA) will face Conference USA foe UCF (23-10, 3-3 C-USA) for a key three-game series. The teams open the set Saturday with a 1:00 p.m. doubleheader and finish it off Sunday at 12:00 p.m.
Contrasting styles will be on display over the weekend as UCF boasts Conference USA's top pitching staff with a 1.61 earned run average and the Pirates lead C-USA in average runs per league game at 6.7 and are hitting .301 against conference opponents.
During Wednesday's doubleheader at UNC Wilmington, the Pirates topped the Seahawks 10-2 in six innings and 7-1. In the opener, freshman Courtney Smith earned her first victory since Feb. 25, scattering five hits in the complete-game performance. ECU recorded only eight hits during the first contest, but stole a Conference USA single-game record 12 bases to buoy its offense. Sophomore Jill Jelnick matched her career high with three runs scored in game one before setting a personal best with three RBI during the nightcap. Freshman Sarah Christian recorded the victory in the second contest for her 12th of the campaign, tied for the most in the league entering the weekend. Senior Priscilla Velasquez chipped in with three RBI in the two games. She also threw a perfect seventh inning to end game two, her first appearance in the circle since Feb. 8, 2009, during the first weekend of her ECU career.
The Pirates Against The Knights
East Carolina and UCF have a brief history as the series began in 2006 when the Knights joined Conference USA. The Pirates own a 17-4 advantage and had not dropped a series to UCF until last season. Before back-to-back losses in 2011, ECU had won the previous seven meetings, outscoring the Knights 24-1.
The Last Meeting
April 10, 2011
ECU Blanks UCF 1-0
East Carolina snapped its three-game losing streak Sunday with a 1-0 victory over UCF as senior Toni Paisley
tied the Conference USA career wins record with her nation-leading 13th solo shutout of the year. Paisley and DePaul's Lindsay Chouinard (2000-03) share the league's all-time victory mark with 108 in their careers.
A year ago in Greenville, the Pirates dropped two extra-inning decisions Saturday, 1-0 in 11 and 3-2 in eight, before responding with a 1-0 win Sunday. In the opener, the Knights scored the winning run on an RBI single from Patrice Fee. The second contest had ECU's Sissy Jimenez tie it at 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh with a single that plated Jelnick, but UCF scored in the eighth with a Marissa Menendez single that delivered Natalie Land and held on for a 3-2 victory. Sunday, Suzanne Riggs scored in the bottom of the fifth on a throwing error as the teams combined for just six hits and 10 strikeouts.
In 2010, the Pirates topped the Knights all four times they met, including a 3-1 victory in the C-USA Tournament championship game as ECU won its first league post-season crown. In that meeting, UCF's Land scored in the top of the first on a throwing error by Kai Clark, but East Carolina answered with two runs in the bottom of the second as Velasquez's sacrifice fly drove in the winning run. During the regular season series in Orlando, ECU recorded 2-0, 2-0 and 6-0 victories.
No. 675 About To Become A Reality For Kee
With two victories at UNC Wilmington on Wednesday, East Carolina head coach Tracey Kee pushed her career win total to 674. The Richmond, Va., native is in her 26th year at East Carolina, 16th as head coach, and is the two-time reigning National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Mideast Region Coaching Staff-of-the-Year honoree.
She is tied with USF's Ken Eriksen for 35th among active NCAA Division I coaches in victories and is 29th in winning percentage at .664.
With Kozlowski Closing In On No. 475
The sweep of the Seahawks on Wednesday also moved ECU associate head coach Natalie Kozlowski's victory total to 472. Kozlowski, in her 12th year at East Carolina and sixth as an associate head coach, joined Kee as the recipient of the last two NFCA mideast staff-of-the-year awards. Since the start of the 2001 campaign when Kozlowski arrived in Greenville, the Pirates have amassed a record of 472-269-1 (.637 winning percentage). In eight of those seasons, the team has reached 40 or more victories
3-3, It's No Surprise To See You
After being swept at Tulsa to open the C-USA season, East Carolina responded with three wins versus UTEP last weekend to even its league record at 3-3. The six-game mark is exactly the same as the team had a year ago. It is actually the third time in the last four seasons ECU started the Conference USA campaign with a 3-3 mark. Despite the trio of 3-3 starts, the Pirates have posted a 52-23 league record (.693 winning percentage) in the last three-plus years to go along with one regular season championship and the 2010 and 2011 tournament crowns.
Busting Out The Bats And The Broom, Twice
During its three-game sweep of UTEP last weekend and the two wins over UNCW on Wednesday, East Carolina pushed across 45 runs (9.0 per game). The Pirates' 28 runs versus UTEP make it ECU's highest-scoring Conference USA series since joining the league in 2002. The previous best also occurred against the Miners, when East Carolina scored 26 runs April 21-22, 2007, in El Paso.
The Most Runs Per Game In League Play
Through the first six Conference USA games, the Pirates have pushed across 40 runs for a league-best average of 6.7 per contest. So far, East Carolina is averaging 7.7 hits, 5.5 runs batted in, 5.5 walks, 2.2 sacrifice bunts and just 3.2 strikeouts per league contest. A closer look at the nine C-USA teams and the average runs per game against other league opponents:
||Runs Per Game
Contrasting Styles Meet In Orlando
Heading into this weekend's series, UCF's pitching staff leads Conference USA with an overall 1.61 earned run average. During league games, the Knight hurlers have combined to post a 1.88 ERA, fourth best among C-USA clubs. Offensively in league action, UCF ranks seventh in batting average with a .216 mark. ECU, on the other hand, has a 5.03 ERA in league play, good for seventh. Pirate batters have hit .301, the fourth-best mark during conference games, in addition to the league-high 6.7 runs a tilt.
A Free Trip To First
Part of the recent offensive explosion has been due to patience at the plate. East Carolina has drawn 32 walks in the five victories over UTEP and UNC Wilmington. The team made the jump from eighth in C-USA with 61 walks all the way up to second with 93 free passes, just three behind the league-leading Miners.
Cutting Down On The Ks
East Carolina has struck out 19 times in six Conference USA contests (3.2 whiffs per game). Since the Diamond Devil Invitational began on March 9, the Pirates have whiffed 49 times in 14 contests, an average of 3.5 per game. In the 18 games prior to the tournament, ECU fanned 98 times, or 5.4 times a tilt.
Making contact has been key for the team this season as its batting average on balls in play (excluding strikeouts and home runs), is .321 in C-USA games and .305 in all contests.
Making An Impact Early And Often
A 2011 Conference USA All-Freshman Team and all-league tournament honoree, Lewis has been even better in C-USA play so far this season, batting .389 with seven hits, a .556 slugging percentage, eight runs batted in, four scored and just two strikeouts. On Monday, following a weekend in which she batted .455, drove in a team-high five runs and scored four in leading the Pirates to a sweep of UTEP, Lewis was named the Conference USA Hitter-of-the-Week.
As a freshman last year, she batted .242 with 16 hits, a .318 slugging percentage, five runs batted in, 11 scored and 17 whiffs during 24 league matchups.
Three Games, Three Wins
Freshman Sarah Christian earned all three victories over UTEP last weekend. The Greenville product became the first Pirate freshman to win all three games of a Conference USA series since Keli Harrell topped Charlotte three times April 30 and May 1, 2005. Christian is just the second rookie in Conference USA to accomplish the feat since Harrell in 2005, and the first to start two or more games as UAB's Leigh Streetman entered in relief twice in her three wins over Marshall on May 7 and 8, 2011.
Moving Up The Victory Leaderboard
Christian followed up the weekend performance with a victory during the second game at UNC Wilmington on Wednesday. The triumph was her 12th of the season, tied with Andi Williamson of Marshall and Mackenzie Audas of UCF for the C-USA lead.
Christian is the ninth freshman pitcher to win 12 or more games with the Pirates. Three more triumphs would make Christian one of only five, and the third since 1996, to reach 15 wins as a rookie.