No. 8 Owls sweep No. 22 Pirates

Published 7:44 pm Monday, April 9, 2007

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — East Carolina’s once-vaunted bullpen had another rough outing Sunday.
The relievers could never hold a lead against the No. 8 Rice Owls, who swept the Conference USA series with an 8-6 win in front of 2,408 fans at Clark-LeClair Stadium. It was the first time the No. 22 Pirates have been swept at home since TCU accomplished the task March 22-24, 2002.
ECU (21-12, 4-5) is in a tailspin, having dropped six of its last seven.
Meanwhile, Rice (26-10, 8-1) is headed in the opposite direction by winning seven straight.
Godwin said it’s not time to push the panic button just yet.
The Pirates took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Rice All-American Joe Savery allowed RBI-singles to Brandon Henderson and Ryan Wood.
The two runs were all Savery would allow through six innings of work. He gave up five hits while striking out three and walking two.
Diego Seastrunk’s RBI-single pulled Rice within 2-1 in the sixth.
Rice took the lead in the seventh when ECU reliever Shane Mathews couldn’t hold the lead. It wasted a solid performance by Pirate starter Josh Dowdy, who allowed two runs on six hits with three strikeouts and a walk in 6 1/3 innings.
Aaron Luna greeted Mathews with a single and Tyler Henley drew a walk to load the bases. Jared Gayhart followed with a two-run single to give the Owls a 3-2 edge.
The Pirates reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the seventh. David Forbes hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly off reliever Ryne Tacker to tie the game. Harrison Eldridge followed with an RBI-single up the middle to give ECU a 4-3 lead.
Rice took the lead back in the eighth, chasing Mathews (three runs on four hits with two walks in one inning) in the process. Danny Lehmann’s sacrifice fly off reliever Brett Butts evened the game at 4-4. Light hitting Adam Zornes, who entered with a .189 batting average, followed with a two-run blast to left, giving Rice a 6-4 advantage.
ECU tied it up in the bottom half. Corey Kemp (3-for-4) and Ryan Tousley hit one-out singles. Stephen Batts then rifled a two-run double into left to knot the game at 6-6.
Rice came right back in the ninth. Three walks by Jason Neitz (3-1) loaded the bases for Jess Buenger (3-for-5), whose two-run single gave the Owls an 8-6 advantage.
Tacker (6-1) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win.
ECU will play at UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday before returning to C-USA action Friday for a three-game series at Marshall.