East Carolina went down in order in the ninth, and Rice has swept the series. Ryne Tacker (6-1) got the win in three innings of relief and Jason Neitz (3-1) took the loss for the Pirates.
Hard to believe that the East Carolina team that swept Cal State Fullerton a month ago has now lost 5 of its last 6 C-USA games and 6 of 7 overall. Rice moves to 8-1 in conference play, while ECU falls to 4-4.
Jess Buenger has just delivered a 2-run single off reliever Jason Neitz to put Rice back up 8-6 in the ninth. Three walks in the inning (including an intentional walk of Joe Savery) killed the Pirates. With one out, Rice has men on the corners.
Rice took a 6-4 lead in the top of the eighth on singles by Diego Seastrunk and Jess Buenger, a sacrifice fly by Danny Lehmann, and a 2-run home run into The Jungle in left field by replacement catcher Adam Zornes.
Zornes, who has only 8 hits on the season, has made them count since three of those were dingers. That's a .375 home run to hits average.
A sacrifice fly by David Forbes and single by Harrison Eldridge (who has now reached base all four times today) has pushed ECU back into the lead 4-3 after 7 innings. The inning ended when Dale Mollenhauer, with runners at first and second, hit a one-hopper to second base which was fielded by Jess Buenger, who flipped to SS Jimmy Comerota for the second out. Comerota's relay to first was too late to get Mollenhauer but pinch runner Mark Letchworth got caught on his way to third. He had stayed close to second base because it looked like Buenger might catch the ball on the fly and got caught in a rundown between second and third. He was finally retired (4-6-3-5-6 if you're scoring, I think).
Cole St. Clair is gone after failing to retire any of the three batters he faced. Ryan Wood singled, Stephen Batts walked, and pinch hitter Jake Dean had a bunt single to load the bases for ECU. Ryne Tacker has come on for Rice, facing a bases loaded jam with nobody out and the tying run a t third.
Much like yesterday when they put up 5 runs in the fifth to come back from a deficit, Rice has taken a 3-2 lead here in the 7th, thanks to three walks and two singles. Jared Gayhart's 2-run single to score Danny Lehmann and Aaron Luna (who had a pinch hit single) was the telling blow. Josh Dowdy (6.1 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs) has given way on the mound to Shane Mathews. ECU escaped a potentially worse inning when 3B Corey Kemp started a double play by fielding a high hopper, stepping on third for the second out, and throwing to first to retire Joe Savery for the final out of the inning.
Savery has left after six innings, and Cole St. Clair is on the mound for Rice. The huge left hander (6'6, 230) made his season debut this week with an inning of relief against Prairie View after missing the start of the season due to injuries.
Jordan Dodson led off the Owl 6th with a double down into the left field corner. He advanced to third on a long flyout to right field by Joe Savery and then scored on a single by Diego Seastrunk. Second baseman Ryan Wood started a 4-6-3 doubleplay to get ECU out of the inning, so the score is now 2-1 ECU in the bottom of the sixth.
After a shaky first inning, Joe Savery has allowed only 2 hits and 2 walks over the past four innings. Josh Dowdy has been even better for ECU, not allowing a Rice runner past second in the first 5 innings.
Harrison Eldridge has just reached base for the third time today for ECU (2 walks, hit by pitch) after walking three times last night.
3B Corey Kemp, who has made two nice defensive plays, led off the 4th for ECU with a double and moved to third on an infield groundout. He attempted to score on a flyout to right field, but Jared Gayhart cut him down at the plate on a very close play. Needless to say, the Pirate faithful begged to differ with the call by home plate umpire Dan O' Connell and were not timid in vocalizing their feelings. It remains 2 to zip ECU after four.
Neither team was able to score in the 2nd or 3rd innings, so it's still 2-0 ECU after three innings.
Some lineup changes for today: With Savery pitching and hitting for himself, DH Aaron Luna is out of the lineup. He's 4 for 8 in the series with 4 RBI. Catcher Danny Lehmann is at first base today and Travis Reagan is behind the plate. Regular SS Brian Friday is not playing for the second straight day.
For ECU, catcher Corey Kemp has moved from behind the plate to take over at the hot corner today.
ECU was undaunted by his laurels and roughed up Joe Savery a bit in the first, scoring 2 runs on 3 hits after leadoff batter Harrison Eldridge was hit by a pitch. Brandon Henderson and Ryan Wood had RBI singles in the inning for the Pirates.
As I was walking to my car after yesterday's game, I noticed the Rice team piling into a bunch of mini-vans, one of which was being driven by Coach Wayne Graham. One of the assistant coaches told me that whenever they have a road trip, they rent a group of vans to make it easier for the players to get back on forth from the team hotel and get dinner after the games. I guess we should expect an intelligent approach like this from a fine academic institution like Rice.
Rice is going for the sweep against East Carolina here on Easter Sunday. The Owls took game one 4-0 and wrapped up the series yesterday with a come from behind 9-6 win. East Carolina will face a tall task in salvaging a win, having to face C-USA Preseason Player of the Year Joe Savery, who is on the mound today (4-1, 2.06).
Josh Dowdy (1-1, 2.40) takes the hill for the Pirates.
It's cold again here today (45 degrees at game time). However, it's clear, sunny, and less windy than yesterday.
ECU catcher Corey Kemp drilled a long fly ball to left that looked like it was heading into The Jungle, the tailgating area beyond the left field fence. Rice LF Jordan Dodson made a nice catch up against the fence to keep ECU from taking a 9-8 lead. After six, it's still Rice 8, East Carolina 6.
East Carolina is threatening in the bottom of the sixth, with the bases loaded and only out, trailing 8-5. Lefthander Bobby Bramhall is now toeing the rubber for Rice, making his 13th relief appearance of the year.
Ryan Tousley just hit a sacrifice fly, making it 8-6. Still two out in the bottom of the 6th.
Joe Savery has just delivered a two run double to push the Rice lead to 8-5 in the sixth. DH Aaron Luna, with 3 RBI already today, was intentionally walked. The bases are juiced with two out after PH Derek Myers looked at a third strike.
There seems to be at least one confused fan at the game. A guy who is cheering for ECU is walking around with a South Carolina cap and a North Carolina sweatshirt. Maybe it's the cold weather.
Rice has erupted in the top of the 5th for five runs to take a 6-5 lead. Aided by an error and two walks, the Owls came up with three hits, including a two run double by Aaron Luna. The sophomore DH has driven in half of the Rice runs today. ECU starter Dustin Sasser has given way to Brett Butts (try saying that name three times real fast).
Rice plated a run in the 4th to make it a 5-1 game. Two walks and two singles, including an RBI base hit by DH Aaron Luna, accounted for the Owls' first run. ECU second baseman Ryan Wood made a nice backhanded stop to begin a double play that snuffed out any further scoring threat from Rice.
The Pirates failed to score in their half of the fourth.
If you haven't seen the announcement yet, Tulane's rebuilt Turchin Stadium will not be ready this year, so the Conference USA tournament has been moved here to Greenville, NC. Along those same lines, it looks like LSU's new Alex Box Stadium, originally scheduled to open in 2008, won't be ready until the 2009 season. Maybe FEMA has a hand in those rebuilding projects.
With apologies to ECU starter Dustin Sasser, it was Matt Langwell from Rice who walked three ECU batters in the first. Langwell is now gone after walking five of the ten batters he faced. ECU added two more runs in the 2nd on a single by Dale Mollenhauer and infield groundout by Ryan Tousley off reliever Scott Lonergan (both runs charged to Langwell).
I wish Eric Sorenson would send some of that warm southern California weather out here to the East Coast. Fortunately, Clark-LeClair Stadium has a wonderful press box, making the conditions much more bearable.
Like John Rambo, the ECU Pirates drew first blood with 2 runs in the bottom of the first. Rice starter Dustin Sasser (3-1, 2.47) walked 3 batters in the first inning and couldn't escape the jam when Brandon Henderson drilled a 2 run single into left field.
There was a somewhat unusual play in the inning, when leadoff hitter Harrison Eldridge walked and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Dale Mollenhauer. The throw to second from 3B J.P. Padron went wildly into centerfield, but Eldridge was thrown out at third base when CF Tyler Henley threw to catcher Danny Lehmann (who was covering third). Eldridge rounded third and got tagged out by Lehmann as he tried to retreat to the bag. You don't see many 8-2 putouts in the infield.
Rice has gone down in order in the 2nd and still haven't had a runner reach base.
We're about to get going with game two of the Rice/East Carolina series from Greenville, NC. The eighth-ranked Owls took game one last night 4-0 behind a combined shutout by Ryan Berry and Ryne Tacker.
Thankfully, the ECU folks had the foresight to move this game up a few hours, since temperatures are expected to dip into the 20s later tonight. Right now it's mostly sunny but quite breezy, and the fans here at Clark-LeClair Stadium were wise enough to bundle up in ancticipation of the less than balmy weather.