HOUSTON, Texas – East Carolina scored a pair of two-out runs in the top of the ninth and turned a game-ending double play to claim a 2-1 Conference USA series win over No. 12 Rice at Reckling Park Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Pirates improve to 19-13 overall and 8-4 in league play, while the Owls fall to 22-12 and 10-5 in the league standings.
Trailing 1-0 heading to the ninth, Dylan Brown and Eric Tyler each recorded a two-out RBI base hit giving ECU its first lead of the contest at 2-1. Ian Townsend doubled to right with two outs before being lifted for Ben Fultz as a pinch runner. Fultz moved over to third on a wild pitch before Bryce Harman drew a pinch-hit walk to put runners on the corners. Brown followed with a shot off the right field wall easily plating Fultz, which knotted the game at one-all.
The frame continued when Charlie Yorgen drew an intentional walk to load the bases for Tyler, who singled through the left side scoring Joshua Lovick (pinch runner for Harman) making it a 2-1 contest before Brown was thrown out at the plate trying to score.
In the bottom half of the frame, John Clay Reeves was hit by a Ryan Williams pitch to start the stanza and immediately was lifted for Charlie Warren as a pinch runner. Williams got Skyler Ewing to fly out to deep right field before Lovick turned a game-ending 3-6 double play securing ECU’s first-ever series win over Rice.
Williams (9-1), who made his 18th relief appearance of the season, picked up his nation-leading ninth win tossing 4.2 scoreless innings where he allowed three hits and struck out two. David Lucroy worked 4.1 innings where he allowed a run (earned) on three hits with a pair of walks and strikeouts before the rain came in and ended his outing.
Matt Ditman (2-5) suffered his second loss of the series allowing a pair of ninth inning runs (both earned) on four hits with three strikeouts and a walk in 2.2 innings of relief. Chase McDowell was brilliant in his start scattering a pair of hits over six scoreless frames with two strikeouts. Kevin McCanna worked one-third of an inning in relief.
Keenan Cook’s RBI triple to left field scored Michael Aquino from second for an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Aquino laced a double to start the frame and took third on John Williamson’s sac bunt to third before strolling home for the game’s first run.
The Pirates had a chance to scratch a run across in the seventh possibly tying the game at one-all. Zach Houchins singles to left to start the frame and after two quick outs, moved to third on a pair of Ditman wild pitches. But Ditman got Brown to chase a pitch low and away to end the top half of the inning.
Offensively ECU got a pair of hits from Townsend, his seventh multi-hit game of the season, while five others recorded a base knock. Tyler’s RBI single was his first career game-winning RBI for the Pirates.
ECU will be back in action on Wednesday, Apr. 9 when they play host to NC State at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. (ET).