Pirates advance to title game

Published 6:47 am Sunday, February 17, 2008

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Vanessa Moreno came through in the clutch twice for East Carolina, which helped vault the Pirates into today’s championship game of the Pirate Invitational.
ECU (8-2), which topped Ohio University 6-2 and Maine University 3-2 in Saturday’s softball play, will face Boston College at 11 a.m. in the championship game. The Pirates beat the Eagles 1-0 in eight innings in Friday’s action.
Ohio and Maine will play in the consolation game at 9 a.m.
Moreno is a big reason why. The ECU catcher ripped a bases-loaded, three-run double to ignite a six-run rally in the sixth inning against the Ohio Bobcats. Moreno’s RBI-single in the sixth inning against the Maine Black Bears proved to be the game-winner.
ECU got a strong pitching performance from freshman Britt Howell (3-0) in the win over Ohio. Howell scattered seven hits and allowed the two runs, both coming in the seventh inning, while striking out five and walking one.
She pitched out of a handful of jams and benefited from a huge defensive play by center fielder Christina Merrida in the fifth inning. With the bases loaded, Ohio’s Melissa Bonner sent a shot into the gap in right-center, but Merrida made a sensational diving grab to rob Bonner of a hit.
The Pirates finally got to Ohio pitcher Michelle Sauter (3 earned runs on seven hits in six innings) in the sixth. ECU loaded the bases with nobody out. Merrida singled, Jessica Johnson was hit by a pitch and St. Ledger reached on an infield hit to load the bases. After a force out at home, Moreno slapped a three-run double into right for a 3-0 lead.
Moreno later scored on an error and Charina Sumner belted a two-run double for a 6-0 advantage.
The Bobcats scored twice in the seventh to avoid the shutout.
In the win over the Black Bears, the Pirates had plenty of opportunities to score. However, ECU stranded 14 runners on base, including the bases loaded in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
However, the Pirates gave Brooke Swann (3-1) just enough run support. Swann, who allowed two runs on seven hits while fanning eight and walking three, defeated Maine for the second time in two days.
Cristen Aona’s RBI-single in the first gave ECU a 1-0 lead.
The Bears took a 2-1 lead in the third on a two-run homer off the bat of Ashley Waters.
The Pirates tied the game in the fourth. After Paige Baggett slapped a single, freshman Jillian Gallagher was inserted as a pinch runner. The move paid off as Gallagher’s speed helped her beat a throw to second on a force out attempt, giving ECU runners at first and second.
Gallagher, who went to third on a sacrifice, trotted home on Sumner’s sacrifice fly to make it 2-2.
It stayed that way until the sixth. Johnson slapped a one-out single up the middle. After St. Ledger walked, Moreno drilled a two-out single into left that scored pinch-runner Suzanne Riggs for a 3-2 lead.
Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Waters with two outs in the seventh. Swann got Waters to ground out back to the mound to end the game.
Ohio University 000 000 2 – 2 7 2
East Carolina 000 006 x – 6 7 0
WP: Britt Howell; LP: Michelle Sauter
Hitters: OU – Alicia Catlette 3-3, Candace Saucedo 1-1 (RBI), Allie Farrington 1-1, Shalene Petrich 1-4, Melissa Bonner 1-4; ECU – Erin St. Ledger 2-3, Paige Baggett 1-1, Vanessa Moreno 1-3 (2B,3 RBIs), Kaui Tom 1-3, Charina Sumner 1-4 (2B, 2 RBIs),Christina Merrida 1-4.
Maine University 002 000 0 – 2 7 1
East Carolina 100 101 x – 3 10 0
WP: Brooke Swann; LP: Christine McGivney
Hitters: M – Ashley Waters 2-3 (HR, 2 RBIs), Kali Burnham 2-2, Jordan McLain 1-1, Whitney Spangler 1-3 (2B), Alexis Souhlaris 1-4; ECU – Stacey Andrews 2-2 (2B), Erin St. Ledger 2-3, Jessica Johnson 1-2, Charina Sumner 1-3 (RBI), Christina Merrida 1-3, Paige Baggett 1-3, Cristen Aona 1-4 (RBI), Vanessa Moreno 1-4 (RBI).