First place on the line for Pirates|ECU battles Rice in C-USA play

Published 12:23 pm Friday, April 23, 2010

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — East Carolina will be looking to shore up its defense as it plays Rice in a pivotal three-game Conference USA series this weekend. The Pirates (24-14, 6-3 C-USA) and Owls (23-16, 8-4) are currently tied for first atop the conference standings.
The series kicks off at Reckling Stadium with tonight’s game at 7:30. Saturday’s game, which will be on CBS CS, will begin at 3 p.m.. Sunday’s finale is set for 2 p.m.
“It’s a tough place to play,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “The park is beautiful, but it’s a tough place to play. They’ve had their ups and downs this year.
“I just want this team to play good baseball. We haven’t played at a high level yet.”
The Pirates have committed an error in 13 straight games. It’s been worse of late, as ECU has committed 19 errors in the last four games.
Godwin has been left scratching his head over all the miscues.
“We’ve done everything (to fix things),” Godwin said. “I’ve got upset, I’ve patted them on the back, tried to instill confidence (and) we’ve talked about being aggressive.
“It’s mental. I know we’ve moved some guys around, but we made three errors on the mound (Wednesday night in a loss to N.C. State). It’s really, really frustrating. We’re just going to keep working.”
Zach Woods (5-1, 2.96 ERA) gets the nod for ECU in tonight’s game. He’ll face a Rice team that is hitting .308 and coming off a 7-1 loss to Texas A&M.
Anthony Rendon leads Rice with 13 homers, 44 RBIs and a .369 batting average.
Other top hitters for Rice are Jeremy Rathjen (.336, 7 HRs, 43 RBIs), Michael Fuda (.336, 3 HRs, 24 RBIs), Jimmy Comerota (.333, 3 HRs, 21 RBIs) and Diego Seastrunk (.316, 4 HRs, 23 RBIs).
Taylor Wall (2-4, 3.95 ERA), a lefty, will start for the Owls. He’ll face an ECU club that is hitting .333 on the year.
Kyle Roller, who has smashed nine homers and driven in 40 runs, leads the Pirates with a .374 average. The senior said his Pirates will have to play well this weekend.
“Rice is a good opponent,” Roller said. “They’re playing well right now in all aspects of the game. We have to go there and play to the best of our ability.”
Other top hitters for the Pirates are Corey Thompson (.368, 3 HRs, 36 RBIs), Devin Harris (.348, 8 HRs, 37 RBIs), Austin Homan (.333, 1 HR, 25 RBIs), Trent Whitehead (.327, 1 HR, 18 RBIs), John Wooten (.316, 5 HRs, 26 RBIs) and Zach Wright (.306, 11 HRs, 40 RBIs).
Seth Maness (7-2, 5.02 ERA) will start for the Pirates on Saturday. Rice will counter with Mike Ojala (2-1, 5.14 ERA).
Kevin Brandt (3-4, 3.29 ERA) gets the ball for ECU on Sunday. Rice will throw Jared Rogers (4-1, 4.50 ERA).
“This is huge,” Thompson said about the conference series. “We have to go in with a swagger because we have something to prove.”