GREENVILLE, N.C.(WNCT) – A two-run home run off the bat of Astin Donovan proved the difference Thursday evening as USF downed East Carolina 3-1 in nine innings in the American Athletic Conference softball opener for both teams at the ECU Softball Stadium.
The Bulls escaped with their 19th-straight victory to improve to 27-9 overall while the Pirates fall to 18-14 with the tough-luck loss.
Erica Nunn (14-5) struck out 14 batters in the complete-game win and limited ECU to one run on two hits in nine innings of work. Junior RHP Lydia Ritchie also tossed the full nine innings in her ninth complete-game effort of the campaign. She surrendered three runs on seven hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
Juli Weber, the league’s top hitter, paced USF with a two-hit effort while senior shortstop Casey Alcorn and junior first baseman Ali Ramirez accounted for East Carolina’s two hits. The Pirates limited the Bull offense to seven hits as USF entered the contest hitting .342 as a team.
How it Happened: The Bulls went to work on offense right away as Kristen Wyckoff and Weber led off the top of the first with consecutive bloop singles. Ritchie recovered to strike out Mia Fung and worked out of the frame with a flyout to right field and a caught stealing of Wyckoff at home plate. Both pitchers settled into the contest, putting up scoreless second and third innings before USF broke through in the top of the fourth.
Fung singled up the middle to start things off and she would eventually score with two outs on a Lauren Evans RBI single. The Bulls had a great chance to add to their lead in the sixth as Lee Ann Spivey laced a leadoff double to left field. She moved to third on a foul out to right field before Monica Santos walked. Ritchie would strand the runners on the corners, however, thanks to a strikeout and groundout.
Down to its last at bats, ECU put together a rally that started with senior designated player Kelsi Briggs reaching on an error at short. Sophomore third baseman Karlie Smith was hit by a pitch with one out, advancing Briggs to second. Following a swinging strikeout, it was up to Ramirez. Down to her last strike, she lifted a RBI single to left field and Briggs scored from second to tie the contest and send it to extra innings.
Following a scoreless eighth, Donovan connected on a 1-1 pitch with two outs in the top of the ninth for a two-run homer that put her side ahead for good. The Pirates had the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate in the home half, but a foul out ended the game.
Bits and Pieces: East Carolina fell to 9-15 all-time against USF … The Pirates lost their AAC opener for the second-straight season … All four runs in the contest were scored with two outs … ECU fell to 1-1 this season in extra innings … Smith has reached base safely in 11 consecutive games … East Carolina is now 4-12 when its opponent scores first … The Pirates moved to 8-2 in contests decided by two runs or less.
Up Next: East Carolina and USF will play the middle game of their series Friday with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. at the ECU Softball Stadium.