East Carolina Pirates
Overall Rank: #43
Conference Rank: #3 Conference USA
East Carolina Team Page
A softball offseason is supposed to be quiet, with some recruiting and workouts thrown in. The offseason was anything but quiet at East Carolina, as softball coach Tracey Kee and assistant Natalie Kozlowski were dismissed by the school amid allegations that the two had created a “hostile environment” in the program and there also were unspecified secondary violations reported to the NCAA. What happened behind the scenes we won’t likely find out. What we do know is a new coach has come aboard, Beth Keylon-Randolph, who guided Chattanooga State to the 2012 National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association championship. Keylon-Randolph is no rookie to softball, with over 600 wins under her coaching belt, and she should bring immediate stability to a program that needs it.
2012: 25-28, 11-12
2012 Postseason: None, Lost in C-USA championship to Marshall
Coach: Beth Keylon-Randolph
The graduation of Suzanne Riggs has left a hole in the program’s offense, but Jill Jelnick should help fill that void thanks to a solid .315 batting average and a team-leading 51 hits. One of five players on the team with 10 steals or more a year ago, Jelnick can play infield or outfield positions or serve as the team’s “designated player” without filling a field position. Catcher Kai Clark hit .283 in part-time duty a year ago, and outfielder Jasmine Robbins takes a .280 batting average into this season. Robbins also had 22 runs batted in, second on the team among returning players to the 26 RBI hit by junior Jordan Lewis. Most of the lineup returns intact save for Riggs, which should help East Carolina build on last year’s foundation.
Sophomore Sarah Christian didn’t exactly dazzle as a freshman, but she wasn’t bad by any means. Her 18-16 record and 3.61 earned run average in 200 innings of work helped the Pirates keep down the amount of pitchers they needed to use. Sophomore Courtney Smith was under .500 last year and had more walks than strikeouts, but another year of seasoning and improvement should solidify her as a No. 2 starter or reliever when needed.
Who to Watch:
It is unknown where Keylon-Randolph will use Kelsi Briggs, an incoming freshman from Yorba Linda, Calif., but do not be surprised if she cracks the starting lineup immediately. With Valencia High last spring she hit .519 and had a .790 slugging percentage with six home runs. The leap from high school to college softball is always one that is loaded with pitfalls. Will a freshman adjust to the faster pace of the college game? Still, if Briggs is given a chance, she could be a gold mine for a team sorely lacking in home-run power.
Despite the under-.500 record a year ago, East Carolina did reach its conference’s title game and almost made a trip to the NCAA tournament. How well this team does depends on how the Pirates adjust to lack of slugging without Riggs. If East Carolina can fine-tune its offense and get more stability out of Christian, Smith and any other pitchers, then the Pirates should find 30 wins and a trip to the NCAA tournament easy accomplishments. If not, chalk it up to an adjustment year under Keylon-Randolph.
Projected Postseason: None
At Bats: Jill Jelnick, IF/OF, 162
Hits: Jill Jelnick, IF/OF, 51
Home Runs: Jordan Lewis, IF/OF, 3
RBIs: Jordan Lewis, IF/OF, 26
Runs: Kristi Oshiro, IF, 34
Stolen Bases: Kristi Oshiro, IF, 13
Wins: Sarah Christian, P, 18
Innings Pitched: Sarah Christian, P, 200
Strikeouts: Sarah Christian, P, 63
Saves: Courtney Smith, P, 2