UNCG heads to ECU's Pirate Clash this weekend
UNCG at the Pirate Clash, Feb. 17-19, Greenville, N.C.
(Tournament field: UNCG, East Carolina, Fordham, Hofstra, Louisville and Virginia)
LiveStats: Gametracker (every game)
Video: East Carolina All-Access (Friday's game vs. East Carolina only; subscription-based)
• UNCG's softball team heads to Greenville, N.C., this weekend for its second tournament of the season, East Carolina's Pirate Clash.
• The Pirate Clash field is one of the toughest in UNCG coach Jennifer Herzig's tenure. In addition to tournament host ECU, the Spartans will also face Louisville, Fordham, Hofstra and Virginia. Louisville is ranked No. 21 in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 and No. 23 in the ESPN/USA Softball poll. Fordham, Hofstra and ECU all received votes in the preseason USA Today/NFCA poll, while Fordham earned votes in the preseason ESPN/USA Softball poll, as well.
• The Spartans opened their season at the Wingate by Wyndham Opening Weekend Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., facing host Jacksonville, Buffalo, Saint Louis and Virginia Tech last weekend. UNCG went 0-5 on the weekend, dropping a pair to the Hokies.
• Sophomore shortstop Aisha Figueroa led UNCG at the plate over the weekend, hitting .429 and turning in a .529 on-base percentage. She was also 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts. Freshman left fielder Dominique Madruga had a solid collegiate debut, hitting an even .300 and drawing three walks for a .500 on-base percentage. Junior first baseman Eileen Horsmon hit home runs on Friday and Saturday and is already just one shy of her total from all of last season.
• Freshman pitcher Erica Navarette had a better weekend than her numbers indicated. The rookie from San Marcos, Calif., went 0-2 with a 5.62 ERA and appeared in all five games, striking out 15 in 18 2/3 innings. She was the tough-luck loser in a 1-0 setback against Saint Louis, tossing a complete game and allowing just five hits and an unearned run in her first collegiate start. Her lone bad outing came in UNCG's second game against Virginia Tech, when she was tagged for nine runs in 2 1/3 innings.
• Senior Alex Emeterio begins her senior season fourth in school history in career batting average (.350) and is also in the top 10 in career hits, doubles, triples, RBI, slugging percentage and walks.
• UNCG is 12-27 all-time against East Carolina. The teams last met on March 30, 2010, when the Pirates swept a doubleheader in Greensboro.
• Two-time defending Conference USA tournament champion ECU opened its season 3-1 last weekend at its own Pirate Classic. After dropping a 3-1 decision to Virginia to open their season, the Pirates beat Canisius (twice) and Drexel. ECU's scheduled game against Virginia on Sunday was canceled due to cold weather.
• ECU is hitting .324 as a team after its opening weekend. Rebecca Lee leads the squad with a .556 average, six runs and a 6-for-6 effort on the base paths. The Pirates were 19-for-20 in stolen bases in the four games. Courtney Smith appeared in all four games in the circle, going 1-1 with a 2.23 ERA. Sarah Christian posted a 6.00 ERA but was 2-0.
• The Pirates' coaching staff of Tracey Kee, Natalie Kozlowski and Cristen Aona was named the NFCA Mideast Region Coaching Staff of the Year last season.
• UNCG is 3-0 against Fordham all-time. The last time the squads met was on Feb. 29, 2008, also at the Pirate Clash. The Spartans took a 6-0 win.
• Fordham, which won the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season and tournament titles last season, will be opening its season this weekend. The Rams went 42-19 overall and 16-4 in conference play last season.
• Senior pitcher Jen Mineau was on USA Softball's Top 50 Watch List for player of the year honors for the third straight year. A third-team Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American last year, Mineau was a second-team preseason All-American pick by ESPN.com this year. She was 24-9 with a 1.22 ERA and 300 strikeouts last year.
• Infielder Nicole Callahan led the Rams with a .358 average as a junior last season but is the only returner that hit over .300.
• The Spartans are 0-1 against Hofstra all-time. The teams' lone meeting came on the opening day of the 2011 season, when Hofstra no-hit UNCG 16-0 in five innings at the Seminole Kick Off Classic in Tallahassee, Fla.
• Hofstra is also opening its season this weekend. The Pride went 40-13 overall and 19-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association last year, winning the league's regular-season title before falling in the title game of the conference tournament. Hofstra and Georgia State, which beat the Pride twice in the tournament last year to take the title, shared first-place honors in the 2012 preseason CAA poll.
• Junior pitcher Olivia Galati, who no-hit the Spartans last year, is the two-time defending CAA Pitcher of the Year. She was 29-8 with a 1.24 ERA and 348 strikeouts last season and also led the team with a .343 batting average. Galati also earned a spot on the USA Softball Top 50 Watch List for player of the year.
• The Pride graduated 2011 CAA Player of the Year Sara Michalowski but returns all-region performer Tessa Ziemba, who hit .335 with nine homers and 44 RBI as a sophomore last year.
• UNCG and Louisville have never met in softball.
• Louisville started this season 5-0, sweeping through play at the FIU Combat Classic in Miami, Fla., last weekend. The Cardinals opened the season with wins over Michigan State and Illinois on Friday, followed by wins over UAB and tournament host Florida International the following day. Louisville took a 2-0 win over Massachusetts to close the tournament.
• Senior Tori Collins was named the Big East Pitcher of the Week after going 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA at the tournament. She made four appearances, striking out 30 in just 20 1/3 innings, including a career-high 13 in a three-hit shutout over UMass.
• Catcher Taner Fowler hit a team-best .500 on the weekend, hitting two home runs and driving in five. Maggie Ruckenbrod hit three homers with seven RBI at the tournament.
• Virginia leads the all-time series with UNCG, 19-3. The teams last met on March 25, 2003, when the Cavaliers swept a doubleheader in Charlottesville, Va.
• The Cavaliers, who will be competing in Greenville for the season straight weekend, opened the season 4-0 at ECU's Pirate Classic. UVa topped Drexel and ECU on Friday, followed by wins over Canisius and Drexel the following day. The Cavs outscored their competition 29-5 over the weekend.
• Second baseman Erica Cipolloni hit .615 last weekend, going 8-for-13 with a triple, three homers and four RBI and slugging 1.462. She also went 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts. Catcher Kristen Hawkins hit .500 with two homers and five RBI. Cipolloni and Hawkins had two homers each in a 7-2 win over Canisius. As a team, Virginia is hitting .353 and slugging .588 so far in 2012.
• The Cavs' pitching staff also turned in a dominant weekend, posting a cumulative 1.08 ERA. Melanie Mitchell and Rachel Gillen each went 2-0, with Mitchell posting a 0.64 ERA and Gillen a 1.50 mark. Mitchell struck out 21 and walked only one in just 11 innings of work.
UNCG's Pirate Clash schedule
Friday: vs. Fordham, 3 p.m.; at East Carolina, 5 p.m.
Saturday: vs. Louisville, 11 a.m.
Sunday: vs. Virginia, 11 a.m.; vs. Hofstra, 1 p.m.
- UNCG -