Surging Pirates take out 'Pack
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
As a former N.C. State assistant coach, third-year East Carolina softball head coach Courtney Oliver is plenty familiar with the rivalry in all sports between the Pirates and Wolfpack.
California native and ECU shortstop Ashleigh Inae got quite the introduction to it Wednesday when she chopped a single up the middle to score Olivia Narron in the bottom of the seventh inning for the Pirates to beat the ’Pack 2-1 at the ECU Softball Stadium.
The win by the Pirates (22-26) was their third straight by one run and it made them 7-2 in their last nine games. It also came during the middle of the team’s final homestand of the season.
“It feels so good,” said Inae, who had both of ECU’s RBIs, of scoring Narron. “It’s definitely a team win and my team had my back. We pick each other up, even when we’re down.”
ECU, which got a complete-game effort from freshman Erin Poepping in the pitcher’s circle, could have gotten down after Lily Bishop smacked a pinch hit solo home run in the top of the seventh to tie the game at 1-1.
But Narron, the Pirates’ No. 9 hitter in their lineup, began the bottom of the seventh with an infield single, took second base on a wild pitch and went to third on Tyler King’s sacrifice bunt. She scored easily when Inae bounced a base hit over leaping State pitcher Devin Wallace and the ball also hopped over second base and rolled into center field.
The schools were scheduled to play in baseball on Tuesday night in Raleigh in an anticipated top-10 showdown, but the game was cancelled because of inclement weather.
“I’ve been on both sides and it’s a good rivalry and that’s what makes the game fun,” Oliver said. “I didn’t pay too much attention to (baseball), because we have our own business we need to attend to, but it is a fun rivalry.”
NCSU (22-26) had its losing streak extended to five games.
Meredith Burroughs, the American Athletic Conference home run leader and a senior who played her first two seasons at State, was 1-for-2 with a walk. Inae and Ashley Weingartz each went 2-for-3 to lead a Pirate offense that had seven different players record a hit.
Weingartz also made a key defensive play to end the top of the sixth when she threw out a baserunner at home plate with her throw from right field to keep the Pirates up 1-0.
“We’re playing well at the right part of the season,” Oliver said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way and I’m glad we got some hard times over with early in the season. We learned from it and are playing our best ball right now.”
ECU, which has been through 12- and eight-game losing streaks this year, was coming off a series win against AAC leader South Florida and is set to host second-place Wichita State this weekend.
Poepping, who like Inae is an out-of-state rookie who came from Lino Lakes, Minn., struck out five Wolfpack batters and allowed five hits.
“We are starting to get confident that somebody is going to come through, and when they hit that home run nobody panicked,” Oliver said. “We knew that we were going to get them.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.