Pirates earn No. 1 seed|Play Southern Miss in first round of C-USA tourney

Published 3:55 pm Tuesday, May 11, 2010

By Staff
ECU Sports Information
IRVING, Texas – The East Carolina softball team, regular season champion of Conference USA, will enter this week’s league tournament as the No. 1 seed after finishing the regular season with a 39-16 overall record and a 16-5 mark in league games. The Pirates will play No. 8 seed Southern Miss at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cougar Softball Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Last weekend, East Carolina claimed its first C-USA regular season championship with a sweep of Memphis. It was the first regular season title for the Pirate program since winning three straight in the Big South from 1997-99. ECU also became the first team in Conference USA history to sweep three league series in the same season without allowing a run. UCF, Southern Miss and Memphis all failed to score against the Pirate pitching staff.
Leading the way in the circle this season is six-time C-USA Pitcher-of-the-Week Toni Paisley. She has a 27-9 record and 1.05 earned run average while leading the NCAA in shutouts with 19. Paisley has also struck out 320 batters, just 18 shy of the ECU single-season record. She finished league play with a 0.52 ERA, surrendering only eight earned runs in 107.2 innings pitched.
Sophomore Faith Sutton has also thrown well, going 12-7 with a 2.26 earned run average. In her past three starts, all shutouts, she has given up just eight hits and struck out 15 batters. In C-USA action, Sutton compiled a 2.87 earned run average and fanned 26 batters.
On offense, seniors Marina Gusman-Brown and Charina Sumner lead the way.
Gusman-Brown has team-best marks in batting average (.331), home runs (12), runs batted in (36), slugging percentage (.656) and stolen bases (27). Sumner paces the Pirates in hits (57), doubles (10), triples (5) and runs scored (33).
As a team, East Carolina leads the country with a .983 fielding percentage. The Pirates have committed just 24 errors in 55 games. For the past three seasons, ECU has not finished lower than third nationally in fielding percentage (second in 2007, .977; third in 2008, .980; third in 2009, .978).
Last season at the league tournament in El Paso, Texas, the second-seeded Pirates fell in the first round to host UTEP 4-3 in 13 innings. In that contest, the longest in C-USA Tournament history, Chelsea Troupe, the league’s freshman-of-the-year, hit her second home run of the game with two outs in the top of the 13th to give UTEP the victory. East Carolina had scored three unearned runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.
After guiding the East Carolina softball team to its first Conference USA regular season title, junior Toni Paisley was named the Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Week according to an announcement by league officials Monday. The weekly honor is the 15th of Paisley’s career and seventh this season. The seven selections in 2010 tie her total from a season ago and Southern Miss’ Courtney Blades (2000) for the most single-season C-USA Pitcher-of-the-Week awards. Paisley’s 15 career honors are one short of Houston pitcher Angel Shamblin (2005-08) and DePaul hurler Lindsay Chouinard (2000-03) for the most selections for a C-USA softball player.
Paisley led the Pirates to a 5-0 week with sweeps of Elon and Memphis. She went 3-0 without allowing a run and struck out 30 batters. The three shutouts gave her a nation-best 19 this season.
After clinching its first Conference USA regular season championship Saturday, the East Carolina softball team continued to make history by shutting out Memphis in a 1-0 victory Sunday. The Pirates became the first team in Conference USA history to blank opponents in three league series in the same season. ECU (39-16, 16-5 C-USA) did not allow a run to UCF, Southern Miss or Memphis this year.
A single from senior Marina Gusman-Brown that drove in classmate Charina Sumner in the first inning proved to be the game’s only run. Junior Toni Paisley earned her 19th shutout of the season to take over the national lead. The victory over the Tigers (24-25, 8-15 C-USA) was also the Pirates’ seventh 1-0 triumph of the season. Additionally, East Carolina’s five Conference USA losses matches the program record for the fewest in a season, set a season ago.
Paisley (27-9) went the distance, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out six. Vanessa Walle (8-12) took the loss as she threw the first two innings for the Tigers, giving up a run on two hits. She also struck out a batter. Lauren Carley came in for the next three innings and held the Pirates without a hit. Carly Hummel ended the Memphis pitching effort, throwing the final two frames and surrendering one hit.
The Pirates scored the game’s only run in the top of the first. Sumner led off with an infield single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by classmate Christina Merrida, went to third on a groundout by senior Vanessa Moreno and scored on a single to left field by Gusman-Brown.
Conference USA Thursday First-Round Tournament Schedule
Game 1 – No. 2 Tulsa vs. No. 7 Memphis 12:00 p.m.
Game 2 – No. 3 UCF vs. No. 6 UTEP 2:30 p.m.
Game 3 – No. 1 East Carolina vs. No. 8 Southern Miss 5:30 p.m.
Game 4 – No. 4 UAB vs. No. 5 Houston 8:00 p.m.