GREENVILLE, N.C. – No. 2 seed Houston used a pair of three-run innings to post a 6-0 victory over No. 6 seed and host East Carolina in the semifinals of the 2017 American Athletic Conference Championship Thursday afternoon at the ECU Softball Stadium.
The Cougars (30-24) advance to the championship game Saturday against the winner of the second semifinal between No. 1 seed Tulsa and No. 5 seed Memphis. The Tigers defeated No. 4 seed USF 7-0 in Thursday’s first contest to book their place in Friday’s lone game.
Senior Kacie Oshiro notched two of ECU’s four hits while junior Meredith Burroughs and freshman Logan Wood accounted for the other two base knocks. Savannah Heebner was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBI to pace Houston’s offensive efforts while Maya Thomas and Sarah Barker produced two-hit efforts to spur the Cougars’ nine-hit attack.
In the circle, senior Lydia Ritchie (17-16) finished out a fine career in the Purple and Gold as she tossed her second complete game of the tournament and allowed six runs on nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Ritchie ended her time at ECU with 361 strikeouts – a mark that stands sixth in program history.
Heebner hurled her second complete-game shutout of the week, scattering four hits and striking out three batters against one walk to propel her team to the title bout.
East Carolina put up the initial scoring threat in the top of the first when Oshiro singled through the
right side and Burroughs reached on a fielding error by Arielle James at second base. With runners on the corners, a strikeout and pop up terminated the frame.
The Pirates menaced again in the top of the fourth when Burroughs laced a double down the right field line to lead off the inning. She advanced to third after a lineout accounted for the second out but a grounder to short allowed Houston to escape unscathed.
The Cougars took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth thanks in large part to a Heebner two-run home run with two outs on the board. Barker also singled with two outs for the first run of the half inning. Houston added three more runs on four hits in the bottom of the sixth to put the game away.
East Carolina ended the season with 64 home runs, setting the American Athletic Conference and program single-season records while Burroughs and redshirt junior catcher Alex Mycek finished the campaign third on the school list with 16 long balls apiece. They also tied former Cougar standout Haley Outon for the most home runs in a single season by an American Athletic Conference player.