ECU Softball

The East Carolina University softball team struggled for the second straight weekend, going 0-5 in its Pirate Invitational tournament at the ECU softball stadium.

The East Carolina University softball team struggled for the second straight weekend, going 0-5 in its Pirate Invitational tournament at the ECU softball stadium. Head coach Courtney Oliver is certainly not panicking about the Pirates’ season, she knows it’s all part of the process.

“The season is a marathon not a sprint,” Oliver said. “I tell them that you’re not supposed to be peaking in February. I think we are growing a lot as a team, and these are growing pains.”

The Pirates never could get over the hump in the tournament, extending their losing streak to six-straight dating back to last weekend. Friday, day one, ECU lost 4-1 against Ball State University, then lost 2-0 to Saint Francis University. On Saturday, ECU lost 7-2 to Ball State once again and lost to Canisius College 4-3. Finally on Sunday, ECU lost to Saint Francis University 7-2 to end the tournament.

ECU’s leading performers in the tournament were redshirt sophomore infielder Tate McClellan who went 5-for-14 with 3 RBI, and freshman outfielder Tyler King who batted .500 (10-for-20) and consistently reached base. Despite ECU getting plenty of hits, what coach Oliver says they need is timely hitting and for people to step up with runners in scoring position. This season the Pirates have racked up 85 hits but have only 35 runs scored as a result of them. The team even experimented with lineup changes to try to spark the offense.

On the mound, the Pirates struggled all weekend long. Freshman pitcher Whitney Sanford especially struggled, giving up 11 earned runs in 15.1 innings pitched. She allowed nearly half of the 24 runs given up the entire weekend for ECU. Fellow freshman pitcher Erin Poepping didn’t do much better, surrendering eight earned runs in 16 innings. Along with getting outs at the bottom of the other teams lineup to avoid any more danger, Oliver says the pitchers don’t need to try harder when they get down.

“I think sometimes they want it so bad that they overthrow,” Oliver said. “They are just trying to blow the ball past people rather than relying on their spin.”

Oliver says the team lacks experience in the bullpen, where the Pirates had major problems closing games out. 21 out of the 24 runs ECU gave up on the weekend came in the fourth inning or later. In three different games, ECU took a tie or a lead into the seventh inning and lost each time. Coach Oliver said she believes the team needs to remain focused for all seven innings, “otherwise other teams are going to come back and score on you.”

This weekend leaves the Pirates on a six-game losing streak struggling to seal a win. Sophomore infielder Kendra Ziemba admits that it’s difficult losing games they believe they can win, and the team is struggling to get the game back to basics.

“We’re just trying to stay together, and we’re trying not to fall apart,” Ziemba said. “That’s all we can do, try to not play as a job but play it more as a fun game like we’ve done our whole lives.”

Many young teams could lose confidence after enduring a tough losing streak, but this so far doesn’t look like one of them. Coach Oliver is keeping her poise, admitting the team is working to figure out who it is and is not doubting the team will eventually find that missing identity.

“It’s still early in the season, there's three different parts to it right? You got pitching, you got defense, you got timely hitting on offense,” Oliver said. “Some days we have the hitting, some days we have the defense and some days we have the pitching. It’s just a matter of time until we get all three.”

Oliver’s confidence in the team is mirrored by the players as well. Players are often talking confidently about when they’ll reach their best play. Ziemba, who can often be seen cheering on and encouraging all teammates, is a prime example of that confidence.

“We’re just trying to figure it out and we will.” Ziemba said. “We’re in a slump but we’re definitely going to hit our peak and come out to play.”

The Pirates will try to bounce back when they go on the road to Hawaii for two consecutive tournaments. First is the Malihini Kipa Aloha tournament from Friday through Sunday, then the Hawaii Spring Fling tournament from March 7 through March 9.

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