ECU stuns top-seeded Rice to stay alive

Published 12:45 am Friday, May 23, 2008

By Staff
Staff Reports
NEW ORLEANS — T.J. Hose came on in relief for East Carolina and handcuffed the No. 5 Rice Owls for over four innings, leading the Pirates to a 4-3 victory. Thursday’s win at Tulane University kept the No. 5 seed Pirates alive in the Conference USA Tournament, while the loss stunningly sent top-seeded Rice home.
The Pirates (40-18) overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Owls (42-13), who had swept ECU during the regular season.
Hose (6-4) was brilliant in relief. He replaced starter Justin Bristow (three runs on five hits in four innings) and proceeded to shut down the Owls. Hose pitched 4 1-3 innings of hitless ball while striking out five and walking four.
Trailing 3-0, Kyle Roller homered for the second time in the tournament to get ECU on the scoreboard in the fifth. It was his 11th of the season.
Corey Kemp, the C-USA Player of the Year, hit his team-leading 16th home run of the season to lead off the sixth, pulling the Pirates within 3-2.
Stephen Batts followed Kemp’s blast with a single. After Batts went to second on a sac bunt from Ryan Wood, freshman Dustin Harrington slapped a hit that scored Batts to tie the game. That ended the day for Rice starter Ryan Barry (7-4), who gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1-3 innings.
Roller greeted Rice reliever Cole St. Clair with a base hit, which sent Harrington to third. One out later, Harrison Eldridge ripped a single that scored Harrington with what proved to be the game-winner.
The Pirates were clinging to the one-run lead when lightening and rain forced the teams off the field. After a 58-minute delay, Hose returned the mound and didn’t miss a beat.
Godwin said it was an easy decision.
The Owls got the tying run to third base in the ninth. Jimmy Comerota drew a leadoff walk and went to second on a groundout. Josh Ruhlman came on for Hose and got Jared Gayhart to fly out to Trent Whitehead, a defensive replacement in the top of the inning, in left. Comerota went to third on a wild pitch, but Ruhlman struck out J.P. Padron to end the game, notching his second save in the process.
Adam Zornes hit a two-run homer in the second to give the Owls a 2-0 lead. Doug Simmons led off the third by drawing a walk. He eventually scored on a double-play groundout to make it 3-0.
The Pirates are scheduled to meet the winner between No. 4 seed Houston (35-21), who beat ECU 5-4 in 10 innings in Wednesday’s first-round game, and No. 8 seed UAB (25-32), who stunned Rice 8-2 on Wednesday, today at 4 p.m.
Godwin believes he has the pitching staff to go far in the tournament.
Weather problems in New Orleans postponed game action Thursday.
Rice 021 0000 000 — 3 5 1
ECU 000 013 010 — 4 8 0
WP: T.J. Hose (6-4); LP: Ryan Berry (7-4); S: Josh Ruhlman (2)
Hitters: R — Jared Gayhart 1-3, Rick Hague 1-3, Adam Zornes 1-4 (HR, 2 RBIs), Diego Seastrunk 1-4, Chad Mozingo 1-4; ECU — Kyle Roller 2-4 (HR, RBI), Stephen Batts 2-4, Harrison Eldridge 1-1 (RBI), Jamie Ray 1-3, Corey Kemp 1-4 (HR, RBI), Dustin Harrington 1-4 (RBI).