Pirates quiet Cougars|Advance to the C-USA title game

Published 4:57 pm Saturday, May 15, 2010

By Staff
 ECU Sports Information
HOUSTON, Texas – The East Carolina softball team used a three-run first inning and a solo home run by senior Charina Sumner to defeat Houston 4-0 Friday afternoon in the Conference USA Tournament semifinals.
The Pirates (41-16) advance to their second-ever C-USA Tournament Championship Sunday at 1:00 p.m. against No. 3 seed UCF. ECU’s only other title game appearance was a 1-0 loss to Houston in 2007.
 The victory gave East Carolina its first over the Cougars (30-24-1) in league tournament action as the Pirates entered the game 0-3 against Houston. The triumph also avenged a pair road losses East Carolina suffered three weeks ago to the Cougars.
 Junior Toni Paisley (29-9) earned her 21st shutout of the season as she limited UH to four hits. Paisley struck out six and walked a batter. The six whiffs give her 334 this year, just five shy of setting the program’s single-season record.
Bailey Watts (14-11) took the loss for Houston as she lasted only the first two-thirds of an inning, giving up three runs on two hits and a pair of walks.
Amanda Crabtree entered and threw the final six-and-a-third frames. She surrendered two hits and two walks. Crabtree also struck out 12, tied for the most a pitcher has had against ECU this season.
 In the bottom of the first, the Pirates pushed across three runs. Sumner led off with a walk before senior Christina Merrida singled up the middle. With runners on second and third following a sacrifice bunt by senior Vanessa Moreno, classmate Marina Gusman-Brown was hit by a pitch to fill the bases. Senior Kaui Tom worked a walk to force in the first run. After a foul-out by senior Cristen Aona, junior Sissy Jimenez hit her first pitch down the right-field line for a two-run single and a 3-0 advantage. Crabtree entered and recorded a strikeout to end the threat.
 Houston’s Ashleigh Jones led off the bottom of the first with a walk but was left stranded at second after a sacrifice bunt, lineout and groundout.
 In the bottom of the fourth, the Cougars again put the leadoff batter on as Melissa Gregson singled in front of Moreno in right field. A pair of strikeouts and pop-out closed the inning.
 East Carolina added the game’s final run in the top of the fifth on a solo home run by Sumner. It was her third long ball of the season.
 Houston had its best scoring opportunity in the bottom of the sixth, but could not convert. Jones started the inning with a single and Katy Beth Sherman followed with a base hit through the left side. Gregson then fouled out to Gusman-Brown in left field. With one out, Reina Gaber hit a ground ball to Tom at shortstop. Tom had the ball go through her legs for an error, but Gusman-Brown picked it up and fired to Sumner at second base. Sumner tagged out Sherman, who had rounded the bag too far, for the second out of the inning. Jones did not score on the play as she slid into third base, thinking Tom would make a throw there. Jennifer Klinkert ended the inning, flying out to Gusman-Brown at the warning track.
 Paisley retired the Cougars in order in the seventh on a strikeout and a pair of groundouts to Tom.
 The top-seeded Pirate face the third-seeded Knights for the C-USA championship and the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at 1 p.m. today. The game will be nationally televised by CBS College Sports.