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GREENVILLE, N.C. - The No. 8 Rice Owls scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to complete the three-game sweep of No. 22 East Carolina, 8-6, Sunday afternoon in Conference USA action at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
With the game knotted at six in the ninth, Rice (26-10; 8-1) second baseman Jess Buenger ripped a single to right center scoring Jared Gayhart and Joe Savery to take the lead from ECU (21-12; 4-5).
Ryne Tacker improved to 6-1 on the year after working three innings of relief where he gave up two runs on four hits with one strikeout. Savery went six innings, allowed two runs on five hits with three punch-outs before giving way to Cole St. Clair, who faced five batters, registered no outs and gave up two runs.
Pirate sophomore Josh Dowdy did not factor in the decision despite throwing 6 1/3 innings giving up only two runs on six hits with three strikeouts. Dowdy left the game with a runner on second in the sixth for closer Shane Mathews, who lasted just one inning and gave up three runs. Senior reliever Jason Neitz (3-1) suffered his first loss of the year after pitching a third of an inning, facing five batters, allowing two runs on one hit with three walks.
ECU once again in the series took an early lead plating two runs in the bottom of the first inning, 2-0. Harrison Eldridge reached base to open the frame after being hit by a Savery pitch and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With one-out, Brandon Henderson singled to right field scoring Eldridge putting the ECU up 1-0. The Pirates added another run when Ryan Wood singled down the right field line scoring Henderson.
Rice finally got on the board in the top of the sixth when Diego Seastrunk singled up the middle scoring Jordan Dodson to pull within one, 2-1. Dodson led off the inning with a double down the left field line and advanced to third on Savery’s fly out to right before touching home.
Gayhart gave Rice the lead in the seventh, 3-2, when he singled through the left side scoring Tyler Henley and Aaron Luna.
ECU regained the lead in the bottom of the seventh after scoring two runs. Wood collected his second hit of the day, a single to center and advanced to second when Stephen Batts walked just before Jake Dean’s pinch hit infield single loaded the bases. David Forbes picked up his eighth RBI of the season on a sac fly to center that scored Wood to tie the game at three. Eldridge picked up his first hit of the game with a single up the middle pushing across Batts for the 4-3 lead.
Adam Zomes cranked a two-run bomb over the left field wall in the top of the eighth to put the Owls back on top of ECU 6-4. Seastrunk led off with an infield single, moved over to second on Buenger’s single and then third on Comerota’s sac bunt. Danny Lehmann plated the first run of the inning with his line out to center that scored Seastrunk.
Batts tied the game again in the eighth inning with a two-RBI double down the left field line that scored Drew Schieber and Ryan Tousley.
Eight different Pirates combined for 11 teams hits with Corey Kemp (three) and Wood (two) posting multi-hit games. Five Pirates drove in runs on the day with Batts leading the way with two.
ECU will be on the road next week when they travel to in-state rival UNC Wilmington (April 11) before heading to Charleston, WVa. to face Marshall for three games.