No. 1 and done: ECU eliminated from tourney|Top-seeded Pirates falter against Tulane

Published 10:07 pm Saturday, May 23, 2009

By Staff
C-USA Sports Information
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – For Tulane’s seniors, like right fielder Drew Allain, left fielder Scott Powell and pitcher Josh Zeid, the Green Wave’s next baseball game could well be their last collegiate hurrah. Friday afternoon, each of the trio made sure that their team’s season would last at least another game.
Zeid threw seven shutout innings, Powell broke a scoreless tie with a two-run double and Allain saved runs by twice cutting down the same runner at the plate as fourth-seeded Tulane eliminated regular-season champion and top-seeded East Carolina 3-0 from the 2009 Conference USA Baseball Tournament.
It was the first time in 143 games that the Pirates (42-17) were held without a run, and extended ECU’s scoreless streak in the tournament at Taylor Park to 15 consecutive innings. ECU scored their last run in the third inning of a 5-2 loss to the University of Southern Mississippi Thursday night.
“It’s certainly disappointing to come in here and not swing the bat any better than we did,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “Overall, I thought our pitching was very good. It’s just very disappointing. We hit some balls hard, they were just right at them. We couldn’t find holes.”
Zeid (6-0), who didn’t find out he was starting until about 90 minutes before his first pitch, scattered seven singles, while walking two and striking out two. Preston Claiborne pitched the final two innings to pick up his third save.
“Josh Zeid really gave us a good performance,” Jones said. “To shut a team out like East Carolina, that should be an (NCAA) host team, certainly one of the top teams in the country, you don’t do that with mirrors.”
“We’re just trying to win balllgames; it’s nothing personal,” said Powell, who went 3-for-4 against the Pirates, including a scalding, two-out whistle down the left-field line that gave Tulane a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning off ECU right-hander Brad Mincey (9-5).
Allain certainly helped. With the game scoreless, Allain made a running, ankle-high grab of second baseman Ryan Wood’s sinking liner and in the next motion, threw out shortstop Dustin Harrington at the plate to end the third inning.
With Tulane protecting a 2-0 lead in the seventh, Allain threw out Harrington at home again, who was trying to score on center fielder Trent Whitehead’s single.
“That’s like a once-in-a-30-game, 40-game, kind of play, and he made two of them,” Powell said. “It’s very special to watch, very special to watch and hard to do.”
Actually, Allain was involved in three outfield-gunnings at the plate. He was thrown out in the fifth inning by Whitehead trying to score on center fielder Nick Boullosa’s single.
“I got a little hot-headed there, but I thought for sure I had got in,” Allain said. “I had beat the ball there by a good step, but the catcher did a job blocking the plate.”
Offensively, the Pirates had eight hits on the afternoon with Dustin Harrington (3-for-3) leading the way with his 23rd multi-hit game of the season. Jared Avchen and Trent Whitehead extended their hit streaks to 12 games, while Drew Schieber (six games) and Ryan Wood (five games) also continued their hit streaks.
The Pirates will have to wait and see who their next opponent will be as the NCAA Selection Committee will announce its field of 64 teams on Monday.
ECU Sports Information contributed to this article
Houston 4, UAB 1
HATTIESBURG – Freshman right-hander Michael Goodnight was lights out for the Houston Cougars Friday morning, and in the process, turned the lights out on the UAB Blazers' stay in the 2009 Conference USA Baseball Tournament at Taylor Park.
Goodnight allowed just one run and six hits in 8 1/3 innings – the longest stint of his career – to help the third-seeded Cougars stay alive in the elimination bracket with a 4-1 victory over sixth-seeded UAB.
"He was not going to be denied," said UH assistant coach Russell Stockton, who stepped in for Coach Rayner Noble, who was ejected in the eighth inning after objecting to a check-swing, third-strike call. "He went out there and did a fabulous job.
"You know, when you lose game one, you're just playing it one inning at a time. Our goal has been since day one to play one inning, and if you win that inning, play another inning, and just keep going."
After an opening-round victory over the Cougars on Wednesday, UAB (31-26) saw its season come to end by dropping games on consecutive days to Rice and Houston.
A day after being handcuffed by Rice pitching ace Ryan Berry, UAB's offense couldn't get untracked Friday.
"Once again, kind of like (Thursday), Goodnight was just a little too good for us," UAB coach Brian Shoop said.
"We just couldn't figure out Goodnight on the mound. We have to tip our caps to him."
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Goodnight had started 12 games this season, but had fallen off down the stretch of the regular season.
But a solid bullpen session earlier in the week seemed to turn the trick, especially when it came to Goodnight's breaking pitch.
"I felt like I had good command of my curveball, and I hadn't had that in my last four starts," said Goodnight, who recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts while walking four. "It really kept them off balance.
"It's the longest I've ever gone, so this was a good time for it."
Houston's bats helped Goodnight, as the Cougars grabbed a quick lead. UH scored twice with two outs in the first inning on run-scoring singles by designated hitter Chase Dempsay and catcher Chris Wallace.
Dempsay made it 3-0 in the third inning with an RBI-double and an inning later, freshman first baseman David Murphy hit the first home run of his career for a 4-0 lead.
UAB got its run in the bottom of the fourth inning on designated hitter Digger Towe's double.
Rice 7, Houston 2
After failing to win a regular-season baseball crown for the first time since 1996, the Rice Owls came into the 2009 Conference USA Baseball Tournament looking to reclaim their spot atop the C-USA pecking order.
They'll have that chance Sunday.
For the third time in first four years, the Owls earned a spot in the C-USA tournament championship game with a gritty 7-2 victory over Houston early Friday evening at Taylor Park.
"We're steamrolling," Rice starting right-hander Mike Ojala said. "We're going to go all the way and just take the championship game.
"We've got a lot of pitching left, a lot of good guys who can fill it up and do well."
For a third consecutive game, Rice pitching proved chintzy when it came to granting access to the basepaths, as Ojala (4-0) and left-hander Matt Evers combined on a six-hitter.
"Ojala did a great job," Rice coach Wayne Graham said. "He's pitching with a torn collateral ligament (in his elbow). He just wanted to do it, and the doctor said, `Well, we're going to operate on it after the season,' but he wanted to do it. Thought he threw a pretty good game for a guy with a torn ligament."
Rightfielder Chad Mozingo's two-run, inside-the-park home run in the seventh inning provided a cushion after the Cougars had crept within a run, and the Owls tacked on two more in the eighth for the final margin.
"That kind of put it out of reach," Graham said. "That was a big deal."
Just like the Owls getting back on the track where they believe they belong.
Rice had won at least a share of Western Athletic Conference regular-season baseball titles from 1996-2005. The Owls joined C-USA for the 2006 baseball season, and double-dipped that year and in 2007, winning regular-season and tournament championships. In 2008, Rice won the regular season, but went two-and-out in C-USA's postseason.
"We kind of flubbed up in the tournament last year," Graham said.
This year, East Carolina nipped the Owls for regular-season honors, and a somewhat-ruffled Rice rolled into a conference tournament as a No. 2 seed for the first time in 13 years.
"It was a big blow losing two of three to UAB," Mozingo said of the Owls' final, regular-season series. "But (this week's) been big for our confidence. Our pitching staff has really stepped up, allowing only three runs in our last three games, and that's been the key to our success all year. We've been pretty solid offensively, getting some clutch hits, so yeah, right now, we're on a roll."
Rice (38-15) jumped out 2-0 in the second inning against UH right-hander Mo Wiley (2-4) on a two-run double by designated hitter Ryan Lewis. After a 48-minute rain delay, the Owls made it 3-0 in the third on centerfielder Steven Sultzbaugh's run-scoring single.
But third-seeded Houston (27-31) clawed back in the game. The Cougars made it 3-1 in the fourth inning as catcher Chris Wallace swatted his ninth home run of the season.
UH made it 3-2 in the sixth on first baseman David Murphy's run-scoring infield single, and chased Ojala by loading the bases with two outs. But Evers, who picked up his third save of the year, came in to retire pinch-hitter Tom Wertz to get out of the jam.
Then came Mozingo's streak around the bases after lacing the ball off the center-field wall — "That was my first one, probably, since I was like 8 years old," Mozingo said — and then tacked on two more runs in the eighth, one on an RBI-double by third baseman Anthony Rendon.
Friday's game marked only the third time that the cross-town rivals had met outside Houston for a baseball game, and was the first meeting outside Texas.