The East Carolina Softball team wrapped up its three-game set with the University of Central Florida with a doubleheader on Saturday in which the Pirates were swept by the Knights.
Nursing a four-game losing streak as it began play on Saturday, the Pirates (19-17, 1-5 AAC) looked to turn their fortunes around against the Knights (26-9, 6-0 AAC) in a doubleheader.
Recently, offense has been hard to come by for the Pirates who had scored just three total runs on eight hits over the last four games prior to Saturday, all of which resulted in defeat.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, a win would not be in the cards as UCF topped ECU 7-2 in game two of the doubleheader.
Similar to game one, the Knights jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning of play. Instead of the long-ball, UCF pounded out three straight hits and was able to take advantage of a wild pitch by sophomore right-handed pitcher Erin Poepping to build its lead.
ECU responded in the home half of the first by getting sent down in order despite a 12-pitch at-bat by McClellan that ultimately resulted in a strikeout.
Trailing by three runs early, the Pirates got on the board in the second inning with a solo home run by Wood, a blast that easily cleared the right-center wall.
“I thought that we hit the ball really well this weekend as a whole, I thought that the team competed. We were out of position there for a little bit, we switched our lineup a bit. We had a player get hurt so we had to switch up our lineup and I was really happy with the way that the team rallied behind that and they didn’t throw in the towel,” head coach Courtney Oliver said following game two.
With Wood’s long-ball in the books, the Knights began to push across some offense, even with ECU’s ace in the circle. A solo home run by senior infielder/catcher Cassady Brewer in the third moved UCF’s lead to three runs while a three-run blast in the fifth inning off the bat of redshirt junior infielder Tamesha Glover moved the lead out to 7-1. The blast also ended Poepping’s evening in the circle as she allowed seven earned runs in 4.1 innings.
Even prior to Glover’s home run, the Pirates’ offense had shown little life. In the third inning, the first two batters reached for ECU before a strikeout, fly out and ground out left those runners on first and second base. The fourth inning played very much like the previous frame as the Pirates notched back-to-back singles just to have them erased by a strikeout and 5-3 double play.
Now down six runs in the home half of the fifth, the Pirates attempted a comeback beginning with a single by junior outfielder Olivia Narron. Narron moved to second base on a wild pitch and later scored on an RBI single by King, making the score 7-2.
Despite back-to-back reaches by McCollum and McClellan following King’s single, the Pirates were unable to do further damage in the frame.
Staring at a five-run deficit late, the Pirates could not muster enough offense to make game two competitive, falling to the Knights and running their losing streak to six games.
With sophomore outfielder Tyler King atop the lineup and sophomore right-handed pitcher Whitney Sanford in the circle for game one on Saturday, ECU looked to turn its performance around.
UCF, however, had other plans as it quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Those runs came courtesy of a three-run home run off the bat of UCF junior infielder Jazmine Esparza that barely squeezed inside the left-field foul pole.
The Knights’ lead was added to in the top half of the third inning as senior infielder Brooke Barlow produced an RBI on a ground out to second base, making it 4-0 UCF.
With just a single base hit to its credit through the first two innings, ECU was able to respond in the home portion of the third. An infield single from King, a walk and another single by junior utility player Logan Wood loaded the bases with just one away.
That is when the five-hole hitter, redshirt junior Tate McClellan, lifted a ball to medium-depth center field, scoring King on a sac-fly. The Pirates would not be finished in the inning as senior catcher Ashley Weingartz was able to bounce a ball through the left side of the infield, plating a run and cutting UCF’s lead to 4-2.
The Pirates cut further into UCF’s lead in the following frame, this time on a single by redshirt junior utility player Rachel McCollum, running the score to 4-3 in favor of the Knights.
After back-to-back run-scoring opportunities in the third and fourth innings, the Pirates were held in check down the stretch of game one, managing just two base runners from the fourth inning on.
UCF, however, was able to stretch its lead in the sixth with a two-out double by junior infielder Aubrey Johnson that capped the scoring for game one at 5-3 Knights. That loss ran ECU’s losing streak to five games, something it hoped to rectify in game two of the doubleheader.
At 19-17, coach Oliver knows what her team needs to work on most during this upcoming week, replying simply “pitching and defense” when asked that question.
“Maybe a better quality at-bat with runners in scoring position,” Oliver said. “Obviously we worked on that all week, that we wanted to find a way to get them to move over but, you know, just didn’t work out.”
Next on the schedule for the Pirates is a three-game series against the University of South Florida Bulls (25-14, 3-2 AAC). That series will kick-off on Friday at 6:30 at USF Softball Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
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