The East Carolina University softball team couldn’t overcome a great pitching performance from Wichita State University in a 5-1 loss today, losing the American Athletic Conference weekend series in the home finale at the ECU Softball Stadium.
Wichita State (29-18, 11-7 AAC) pitcher Bailey Lange threw a complete game against the Pirates, only walking one batter all game. Lange (17-10) gave up seven hits, but routinely got outs when needed, only to give up one run in the game.
ECU softball head coach Courtney Oliver came away impressed with the way Lange pitched against the Pirates, and gave her plenty of credit for coming away with the victory for the Shockers.
“Lange is really good, she’s gonna make those tough pitches so I’m going to tip my cap to her,” Oliver said. “She came to Greenville ready to throw and that’s exactly what she did. I can’t keep blaming our kids when a kid is throwing a gem, so I’m going to give credit where credit’s due.”
ECU (23-28, 8-10 AAC) had some opportunities to drive in runs, but an RBI single from senior infielder Karlie Smith in the second inning was the only time the Pirates could take advantage, as they left nine runners on base throughout the game.
After Smith’s single to score a run, sophomore infielder Kendra Ziemba singled to load the bases for ECU with just one out. But, a fielder’s choice and a line out left the bases loaded with the Pirates only getting one run. In the seventh inning, ECU attempted to rally with two runners on base with two outs, but a groundout ended the game.
On the mound for ECU, freshman pitcher Erin Poepping could not repeat the dominant, complete game shutout performance she had in yesterday’s 5-0 win. Poepping (13-13) did not struggle with accuracy, as she did not walk any batters, but still gave up five runs on eight hits.
In the first inning, when Wichita State scored three runs to start off the game, was the only inning which really got away from the Pirates. After the first batter of the game struck out, Wichita State rolled off four straight hits including one extra base hit. A hit by pitch and a sacrifice play gave the Shockers the 3-0 lead.
Oliver said ECU lost its focus in the first inning, and if it had kept its focus and limited the damage in the inning, the game could have ended differently. The three run inning proved to be too much for the Pirates to overcome with Lange having her best game on the mound.
“I think if we just take away that first inning I think it’s a completely different ballgame,” Oliver said. “I don’t think that we were as sharp or focused in the first inning and I said ‘we got to come out and play seven innings hard’. If you take away that first inning it’s a much different ballgame.”
The series with Wichita State was the last home games of the season for the Pirates. ECU’s home record finished at 12-13, and ECU went 4-3 during its seven game homestand from April 20-29.
ECU plays its last series of the regular season with an AAC match up with the University of Central Florida. UCF is currently fourth in the AAC, one spot ahead of ECU, and the weekend series could be the difference between fourth and fifth place finishes for both teams.
Oliver won’t look to change anything in the team’s preparation, but says they need to get off to better starts.
“Prepare the same way we prepare every weekend, which is work on timely hits and we just gotta make sure that we score first, that’s our goal,” Oliver said. “When we score first we’re much more relaxed and again we need good pitching and defense.”