GREENVILLE - The East Carolina softball team continued to work toward the start of the 2013 season with a two-and-half hour practice on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 29, at ECU Softball Stadium.
The practice was the 14th designated team session of the spring with another seven scheduled before the campaign begins on Friday, Feb. 8.
The Pirates continued to build through the fundamentals and really focused on first-and-third defensive situations, implementation of offensive signals from the coaching staff and a few other key game situations including execution of sacrifice bunting, running and being aggressive on the base paths, pickoffs and a variety of infield defensive work.
The team was also split into both an early hitting group that met before practice and a late hitting group that met after practice to give everyone equal batting work on the field.
"The team was very focused throughout practice with great attention to these small important details," head coach Beth Keylon-Randolph explained. "Learning the signals is a crucial part of executing a game plan properly. The team is really starting to feel prepared and their confidence is growing by the day. It was a solid all-around practice today. I continue to be very pleased with what I have been seeing."
ECU has held a few live-action scrimmages throughout the preseason practices with the next one scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31, during the 3 p.m. team practice against members of the pitching staff.
"The way I have my four pitchers scheduled is they are split up into days," Keylon-Randolph explained. "When a pitcher throws in the bullpen then they will not throw live to hitters that day. It is spread out to allow all of them the same amount of time against live batters and also in their bullpen work. This past Sunday was a heavier work day, as we had two live scrimmages. On Thursday we plan on doing something similar."
The Pirates return seven starters from the 2012 squad, including Conference USA All-Freshman Team selection Sarah Christian.
Christian won 18 games and threw 200 innings as a true freshman to lead the staff.
ECU also welcomes back five of the top six hitters in Jill Jelnick, Kai Clark, Jasmine Robbins, Jordan Lewis and Alex Fieldhouse.
Jelnick hit .315 last season with 51 hits and was recently a Conference USA Preseason All-Conference selection.
Clark, one of two seniors on the team, sported a .283 batting average in 2012 with a pair of home runs.
Robbins doubled 11 times, stole 12 bases and plated 22 in her sophomore season. Lewis put up 26 RBI plus 12 stolen bases, while Fieldhouse contributed 40 hits, 18 RBI and 17 walks.
The team also welcomes in five newcomers this season in Casey Alcorn, Kelsi Briggs, Morgan Eisenga, Meredith Mitchell and Mary Beth Smith.
"As a program we are ready and excited for the season to begin and have started to reach the end of our preseason process," Keylon-Randolph said. "I feel like we ready to match-up with some outside competition and really test everything that we've been working on over the last few weeks. We continue to get better and improve daily. While it is always impressive when you can beat your teammates day-in and day-out, especially when they know what is coming or what to expect, you eventually reach the point where you want to test yourself against someone new that you are not familiar with. We are ready to start the next step of our process and that is evaluation in games."
The Pirates open up the 2013 season at home and host the Pirate Classic from Feb. 8-10. First pitch will be on Feb. 8 at 2:30 p.m., when ECU faces Cleveland State.