East Carolina falls to Rice

Published 7:29 pm Sunday, April 8, 2007

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — After being dominant at home all season, the No. 22 East Carolina Pirates are now searching for some answers.
ECU couldn’t maintain an early 5-0 lead, as the No. 8 Rice Owls rallied to take a 9-6 win in Conference USA action in front of 3,020 fans Saturday afternoon at Clark-LeClair Stadium. The Pirates (21-11, 4-4), who had won their previous 14 home games before Friday, have dropped five of their last six games, including the first two of this series.
Rice (25-10, 7-1) extended its winning streak to six straight.
The Pirates took advantage of Matt Langwell’s early control problems. The Rice starter walked three in the first inning. Brandon Henderson’s bases-loaded single into left, coming with two outs, scored two of the runners for a quick 2-0 lead.
After Langwell walked two more in the second, his day was done. Langwell, who walked five and allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings, had issued just nine walks in 37 1/3 innings entering the game.
Both of the batters Langwell walked in the second scored.
Dale Mollenhauer greeted Rice reliever Scott Lonergan with an RBI-single and Ryan Tousley knocked in another with a bases-loaded groundout for a 4-0 advantage.
Ryan Wood’s two-out RBI-single in the third extended ECU’s lead to 5-0.
The Owls got on the board in the fourth on an RBI-single by Aaron Luna. Rice could have scored more, but a nifty double play turned by ECU second baseman Ryan Wood ended the inning.
Rice scored five times in the fifth when ECU starter Dustin Sasser (3-2) ran into some problems. Five of the first six Owls to bat reached base, which ended the day for Sasser. He allowed six runs (five earned) on five hits with one strikeout and four walks in 4 1/3 innings.
After Rice loaded the bases, Chad Lembeck’s infield single knocked in a run. Jordan Dodson’s groundout plated another and Tyler Henley, who had singled earlier, scored off a wild pitch to make it 5-4.
Luna ripped a two-run double off ECU reliever Brett Butts to give the Owls a 6-5 lead.
Rice tacked on two more in the sixth. All-American Joe Savery slapped a bases-loaded two-run double to give the Owls an 8-5 advantage.
ECU pulled within 8-6 in the bottom of the sixth on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Tousley. Corey Kemp came within an eyelash of giving the Pirates a 9-8 lead, but his long fly ball was caught at the wall by leaping leftfielder Jordan Dodson.
Jess Buenger’s RBI-single off reliever Jason Neitz in the ninth extended Rice’s advantage to 9-6.
That was more than enough for the Owls. Rice reliever Mike Ojala (1-0) pitched 2 1/3 innings of two-hit ball, allowing a run while striking out one and walking one, to get the win.
Bobby Bramhall tossed four hitless innings, striking out six and walking two, to earn his fourth save of the year.
The teams conclude the series today at 11 a.m. Godwin said it’s important that the Pirates come out on top.
ECU will play at UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday before returning to Conference USA action Friday for a three-game series at Marshall.