GREENVILLE - After nearly a nine-month hiatus from regular season action on the softball diamond, East Carolina's softball program gets back on the field this weekend and hosts the Pirate Classic from Feb. 8-10 at ECU Softball Stadium. The Pirates are starting the program's first season under head coach Beth Keylon-Randolph. ECU plays five games over the weekend in the three-day tournament.
The other teams in the field for the Pirate Classic include Cleveland State, Ohio, Rider and Towson. ECU begins the tournament and season by taking on Cleveland State at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 8. The Pirates have a quick turnaround and play against on Ohio at 4:30 p.m. in the program's second game of the tournament. East Carolina hosts a pair of games on Feb. 9 starting at 3:30 p.m. against Rider. The team's nightcap on Saturday evening is slated to start at 5:30 p.m. against Ohio. The Pirates wrap up the tournament with a single contest on Feb. 10 against Towson at 1 p.m.
The Pirates went 25-28 last season and 11-12 in Conference USA action. ECU is picked to finish sixth in the conference this season after finishing last season in a similar spot. ECU returns 11 letterwinners, five of the top six hitters and both primary pitchers to the squad this season. Entering the 2013 season, the program's 11 returning players have combined for 1,030 career games played at ECU with 857 starts. The Pirates' offensive attack is expected to be spearheaded again by junior outfielder Jill Jelnick. Jelnick is coming off an impressive second year for ECU, where she had a .315 batting average and led the squad with 51 hits. The Aliso Viejo, Calif. native was a preseason choice for the league's all-conference team. ECU also welcomes back senior Kai Clark (.283 batting average, 26 hits, two home runs and 13 RBI), junior Jasmine Robbins (.280 batting average, 23 runs, 40 hits, 11 doubles and 10 stolen bases), junior Jordan Lewis (.270 batting average, 40 hits, three home runs, 26 RBI and 12 stolen bases), junior Alex Fieldhouse (40 hits, two home runs and 18 RBI) and junior Kristi Oshiro (34 runs, 41 hits, three triples, 18 walks and 13 stolen bases).
The pitching staff will be anchored by sophomore Sarah Christian. Christian won 18 games with 17 complete games in her 200 innings thrown in 2012. Fellow sophomore Courtney Smith worked 142 innings, threw 10 complete games and saved a pair of contest in her first season in an ECU uniform.
ECU On Opening Day
Since the Pirates began playing fastpitch softball in 1984, East Carolina is 41-16-1 (.728) in opening day action … The team split the two games last season falling to Virginia 3-1 and defeating Canisus 12-4 at the Pirate Classic … ECU has not swept both games on opening day since 2009 … The earliest opening day for the program came on Feb. 5, 2005 when the team defeated Campbell by scores of 1-0 and 6-1 … The program has reached double figures in runs six times on opening day with the last time being against North Carolina Central in 2008 … ECU's lone tie on opening day came against VCU (2-2 score) in 1987.
Getting Off To Fast Starts in February
Since the start of the fastpitch era, East Carolina has accumulated a record of 167-77 in the month of February …The team's most wins in the month was in 2005 when the program got off to an 18-2 start … Last season, ECU went 7-6 in the first month of the softball season with three of those losses coming to teams that were ranked in the USA Today/NFCA top 25 poll.
Starting the Season On A Streak
Senior catcher Kai Clark is carrying a four-game hitting streak and five contest on-base streak into the first game of the season this season, while Jasmine Robbins has an three-game hitting streak going.
Another Challenging Schedule Awaits
East Carolina's softball team has again loaded up the schedule in 2013 …The Pirates are slated to take on perennial softball powerhouses Notre Dame, Arizona State, Hawai'i and Baylor … Overall, ECU will play 23 games against 11 teams that made the 2012 NCAA Tournament, have contests against 15 non-conference opponents and host 32 home games including three tournaments ... The Pirates have an overall lifetime record of 355-198-3 (.641) against this year's opponents.
A Nationwide Feel
East Carolina's 2013 softball roster consists of 16 players with only four coming from the state of North Carolina … The state breakdown goes as follows:
North Carolina: 4
Scouting Cleveland State
The Vikings ended the 2012 season with a 17-39 record and a 9-15 mark in Horizon League play ... Angie Nicholson, a Cleveland State alumni, is entering her seventh year in charge of the program ... Cleveland State brings back the program's top four hitters and top pitcher from last season .. East Carolina leads the series with CSU by a 4-1 count, but the programs haven't met on the softball diamond since 2001 when the Vikings pulled off a 6-1 win at the Pirate Invitational
The Bobcats posted a 28-29 overall record and a mark of 14-8 in Mid-American Conference play a season ago in earning the fourth seed in their conference tournament under head coach Jodi Hermanek ... Ohio's offense set seven program marks during the year, including most runs scored (293), RBI (255) and home runs (47) ... The Bobcats return three of the program's top four hitters and the top hurler from last season ... The Pirates hold an 18-8-2 advantage in the all-time series … The two ties are the most that ECU has had with any single program … The last meeting occurred in 2008 with East Carolina earning a 6-2 victory.
The Broncs finished 20-33-1 and 7-9 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 2012 under the watch of Tricia Collins ... Collins is beginning her 19th season at the helm of Rider's softball program ... Rider returns five of the top six hitters ... The all-time series favors ECU by a 3-0 count with the last meeting resulting in a 5-3 Pirates' victory in 2004.
The Tigers posted a 25-30 overall record and a mark of 8-13 in the Colonial Athletic Conference in 2012 under Lisa Costello ... Costello arrives at the tournament just two wins from reaching 500 career victories both at Towson and in her career ... In her 18 years in charge of the program, she has topped the 30-win plateau in 11 seasons … ECU hold a 13-1 advantage in the series and have won the last five meetings between the schools … The two programs had met each other every season from 2005-2011 until taking a break from the series last season.
After this weekend's action, the Pirates continue the homestand and play host to the Pirate Clash from Feb. 15-17. The opponents in the second home tournament are St. John's, Saint Joseph's and Georgetown.