HOUSTON – Owls’ catcher Diego Seastrunk went 3-for-5 with a home run and five RBI as top-seeded Rice defeated No. 6 seed East Carolina 11-3 in game two of the 2010 Conference USA Baseball Championship Wednesday evening at the University of Houston’s Cougar Field.
More than half of Rice’s 12 hits went for extra bases as the Owls tallied five doubles and a pair of home runs on the day.
While the bats were getting it done, Taylor Wall was more than capable from the mound as he fanned five in a 6.0-inning start. With the victory, Rice improves to 36-20 on the year. East Carolina, meanwhile, falls to 31-26.
Shortstop Rick Hague and centerfielder Steven Sultzbaugh each enjoyed two-hit outings for Rice. Hague also scored a game-high three runs and finished second to Seastrunk with two RBI, courtesy of a home run two at-bats into the bottom of the first inning.
The Pirates drew first blood as senior designated hitter Kyle Roller hit a two-out, solo home run to left center in the top of the first, but the lead did not last long as Rice right fielder Chad Mozingo doubled to start the home half of the stanza followed by Hague’s homer. One out later, two-time C-USA Player of the Year Anthony Rendon walked and stole a pair of bases and scored on Seastrunk’s first RBI of the contest.
The Owls added another tally in the second when Steven Sultzbaugh doubled and scored on a Mozingo sacrifice fly, and following a scoreless third, Rice blew the game open with a four-run fourth. The fateful inning began with a Michael Fuda single and a Sultzbaugh double. Hague was hit by a Mike Wright pitch one out later and designated hitter Jeremy Rathjens scored Fuda with an RBI-double to right. Following an intentional walk to Rendon to load the bases, Seastrunk ripped a two-run single through the right side of the infield to put Rice on top 8-1.
East Carolina catcher Zach Wright homer to start the fifth and first baseman Jared Avchen walked and scored an inning later to cut the Pirates’ deficit to five. Rice halted any thoughts of a ECU comeback in the eighth, however, when Rendon singled home Hague from third and Seastrunk capped his day with a two-run homer to left.
Wall (5-5) earned the win for Rice after allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk. The Owls’ bullpen was nearly flawless the rest of the way as Holt McNair gave up just a single over the next two stanzas while Matthew Reckling tossed a three-up, three-down ninth.
East Carolina starter Somers (1-2) was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs on four hits and a pair of walks in one-plus inning of work. Wright tossed a career-long 6.2 innings out of the bullpen but was touched up for seven runs on eight hits and a pair of walks while striking out three.
Rice returns to action on Saturday when the Owls take on host Houston at 7 p.m. East Carolina will open day two of the C-USA Championship tomorrow when the Pirates take on Southern Miss at 11 a.m.