Freshman pitchers Whitney Sanford and Erin Poepping showed the promise of East Carolina University’s softball team, leading a sweep over the University of Connecticut over the weekend for its second ever sweep in the American Athletic Conference.
Sanford (8-10) went 2-0 in the series, while Poepping (9-10) went 1-0 and recorded her first collegiate save. Sanford and Poepping combined for 10 strikeouts and only four runs allowed.
Sanford started it off with a complete game in the first game, allowing just three hits and only one run. Poepping followed that up in the second game with her own complete game, also allowing just one run. In the series finale, Sanford threw four innings, surrendering two runs to keep ECU (19-24, 5-7 AAC) ahead for most of the game. When UConn (15-28, 2-10 AAC) staged a comeback to pull within one run in the seventh inning, Poepping came in to shut the door and record the save.
The pitching may have come against the last place Huskies, but that does not take away from the potential that Sanford and Poepping flash on occasion. Sanford threw an eight-inning complete game in the series opener with Memphis, going pitch for pitch with Tigers’ pitcher Molly Smith, who is second in the AAC in wins, strikeouts and opposing batting average. Poepping pitched an eight inning complete-game in ECU’s series opening win over Houston (27-16, 6-6 AAC), outdueling Savannah Heebner, who ranks third in the AAC in wins, and first in opposing batting average. Sanford and Poepping both have shown the ability to be among the best pitchers in the conference, and give their team a chance to win the game.
As the young pitchers led the way this weekend, it was veterans who paced the offense and helped decide each game. Senior infielder Meredith Burroughs hit a solo home run in the series opener that proved to be the difference as ECU won by one run. Fellow senior infielder Karlie Smith’s three-run home run in the second game gave ECU a comfortable lead. In the series finale, it was Burroughs again who lead the offense with four RBI, including a three-run home run in a game ECU won by two. The two seniors gave ECU the timely hitting it needed to go along with its good pitching.
The weekend sweep now sends ECU on a four-game win streak immediately following its eight-game losing streak from March 24 through April 6. The Pirates now sit in seventh place in the AAC.
It has been a season full of impressive winning streaks followed by longer losing streaks for ECU. With AAC playoffs less than a month away, the Pirates are running out of time to find their best play consistently and can hardly afford any more losing streaks if they want a good ranking in the tournament.
The Pirates, spearheaded by the young pitching, will hope to continue their hot streak as they travel in-state to face The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
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