The East Carolina University softball team ended its much needed return home by defeating the University of North Carolina-Wilmington 6-4 yesterday at the ECU Softball Stadium, a place head coach Courtney Oliver appreciated being back at.
“People say this all the time, but there’s really no place like home,” Oliver said. “We love playing in our own place. You know how the ball is gonna hop, pitchers are comfortable, and we obviously have our home fans.”
The Pirates struck first in the game, scoring five unearned runs in the second inning. An RBI single from sophomore infielder Kendra Ziemba scored Mycek, a three-run double from freshman outfielder Tyler King scored sophomore outfielder Olivia Narron, Ziemba and senior infielder Karlie Smith and an RBI double from Ashleigh Inae scored King to wrap up the big inning. The Seahawks cut the lead to one, and ended freshman pitcher Whitney Sanford’s day on a grand slam in the fourth inning. Freshman pitcher Erin Poepping came in to throw 3.2 scoreless innings of relief and got the win, putting her at 6-6 on the season. Redshirt sophomore Tate McClellan gave the Pirates an insurance run with a solo home run in the sixth to make the score 6-4.
ECU returned home from a Hawaii trip that featured two tournaments and 10 games in a seven day stretch. ECU went 0-5 in the Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament and 3-2 in the Hawaii Spring Fling Tournament to end the trip at 3-7 overall. Losing the first six games of the trip stretched the Pirates losing streak to 12 games before finally breaking it with a three-game win streak.
Oliver said she believes that after the losses started to pile on, the players started to put pressure on themselves and made it more difficult.
*I think they faced a lot of adversity in that losing streak, and after awhile it just became pressure,” Oliver said. “I knew once we got the win we’d be back to our old selves.”
One thing that Oliver loved to see get back to better play were pitchers, Sanford and Poepping. Besides the grand slam given up by Sanford, Oliver thought the pitchers did a good job all day, notably getting ahead in counts. Oliver noted a difference between the pitching today versus the pitching during the losing streak.
“We were getting the lead out, and I think that’s what is the most important,” Oliver said. “That’s the difference that we’ve seen in the past few games versus before.”
Unfortunately for ECU, the home stand is short-lived and it returns to the road to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to play the JMU invitational at James Madison University March 16-18. ECU competes against JMU (17-5), Stony Brook University (7-7) and Ohio University (9-10) during the invitationa.
Oliver knows the team must keep the attitude it used yesterday going forward instead of the attitude it had the last two weeks.
“The monkey is finally off of our back, and they’re starting to relax and play East Carolina softball, and that’s what we’ve been trying to get them to do,” Oliver said. “Now they’re really relaxed, they’re making those big pitches under pressure again, they’re making the big plays when they need to, and getting the timely hits. It’s great to have my team back.”