Manuel leads Rice past Pirates

Published 6:56 pm Saturday, April 21, 2012

HOUSTON, Texas — Craig Manuel’s walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning gave No. 7 Rice (30-11, 11-3) a 6-2 series win over No. 24 East Carolina (26-13-1, 8-5-1) in Conference USA action Saturday afternoon at Reckling Park.
With the score tied at two, J.T. Chargois singled up the middle to start the bottom of the tenth and took second base on Jeremy Rathjen’s fielder’s choice bunt, where pitcher Tanner Merritt threw high to second trying to get the lead runner. Both runners moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch and after Shane Hoelscher loaded the bases with an intentional walk, Manuel stepped to the plate and delivered the game-winning shot over the left field wall giving Rice the series win.
Chargois (3-1), who was named to the NCBWA Stopper-of-the-Year Watch List earlier this week, picked up the win tossing two innings of shutout relief with three strikeouts. Rice starter Austin Kubitza allowed two runs (both earned) on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts in seven innings. The Owls used three pitchers to get to closer Chargois. John Simms recorded one out, Tyler Wall allowed a hit and Tyler Duffy got a pair of outs before handing the ball to Chargois.
Merritt (2-3) suffered the loss allowing five runs (all earned) on five hits with two strikeouts and a pair of walks. All five runs he allowed came via the long ball. Tyler Joyner worked 5 2/3 innings in his ninth start of the season. The junior lefty allowed one run (earned) on five hits with four strikeouts before turning the ball over to Merritt.
ECU took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to a two-out double by John Wooten. Drew Reynolds singled with one out and came around to score on Wooten’s fifth two-base hit of the season.
Chargois knotted the game at one in the bottom of the third on a sac fly to right center. Christian Stringer doubled to shallow left center and took third when Michael Fuda grounded out to Joyner right of the mound. Chargois plated his 20th run of the season on a ball to Philip Clark in right center, scoring easily on the throw home.
After recording just one hit Friday night, ECU out hit Rice 11 to 10 on the afternoon. Reynolds, Wright and Wooten each collected a pair of hits, while Clark and Wooten were credited with an RBI. Both teams combined to leave 21 runners (ECU: 12, Rice: 9) on base in the extra inning affair.
The two teams will return to the diamond Sunday afternoon with a 12 noon (EST) first pitch scheduled.