Southern Miss tops ECU
By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE -— After two rain delays totaling an hour and 14 minutes, not many East Carolina fans were left in the stands by the time Friday’s game ended.
They didn’t miss much as the No. 25 Pirates fell 6-3 to the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in Conference USA action at Clark-LeClair Stadium. The Eagles (26-18, 7-9) have now won four straight over the Pirates (28-14, 6-6), which includes a sweep last year.
ECU had its opportunities, but stranded 13 base runners. Southern Miss left nine on base, but did a better job of manufacturing some runs.
A big three-run seventh proved to be the difference. Trailing 3-2, three straight extra-base hits — a James Ewing double, a Jody Blount RBI-triple and a Michael Ewing run-scoring double — gave the Eagles the lead. Drew Carson added an RBI-single to give Southern Miss a 5-3 advantage.
The damage came off ECU reliever Jason Neitz (4-2), who suffered the loss. He allowed the three runs on three hits while striking out one and walking two in 1 2/3 innings.
Blount’s third home run of the season, coming off ECU starter T.J. Hose in the first inning, gave the Golden Eagles the early lead.
The Pirates tied it in the bottom of the second. A groundout by Jake Dean scored Stephen Batts, who singled to start the inning, off Southern Miss starter Ryan Belanger.
The inning was halted for four minutes by a sudden downpour that sent fans scurrying for cover.
A second rain delay came in the top of the fourth, once again chasing away the fans and forcing the players to put the tarp on the field. Despite a delay of one hour and 10 minutes, Hose returned to the mound. The stoppage didn’t affect Hose’s sharpness, as the junior struck out Eddie Burger to end the fourth.
Like Hose, Belanger returned to the mound after the rain delay in the bottom of the fourth. The senior didn’t have the control he had earlier as a walk, single and hit batter loaded the bases. Harrison Eldridge’s sacrifice fly scored Kemp, who had walked to start the rally, to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
Hose (two runs on three hits with five strikeouts and four walks in 4 2/3 innings) departed in the top of the fifth with two on and two out, just missing out on earning a possible win.
Neitz (4-2), a senior left-hander, replaced Hose on the hill. He walked two straight, including a bases-loaded walk to pinch-hitter Trey Cuevas that tied the game at 2-2.
ECU chased Belanger (three runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and three walks in 5 1/3 innings) in the sixth. With runners at the corners, Ryan Wood slapped a two-out single into right off reliever J.R. Ballinger (1-1), scoring pinch-runner Drew Schieber to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.
Southern Miss took the 5-3 lead in the seventh.
Burger’s solo shot to start the eighth off reliever Bailey Daniels, his first of the season, gave Southern Miss a 6-3 lead.
Patrick Ezell pitched the ninth for Southern Miss to earn his eighth save of the season.
The teams play at 6 p.m. today and conclude the series at 1 p.m. Sunday.