Rice Takes Series From ECU

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Zech Lemond tossed 3.2 scoreless innings of relief and Michael Aquino doubled home a pair of runs in the seventh lifting No. 18 Rice (23-11, 6-3) to an 8-7 series win over East Carolina (15-17, 1-5) Sunday afternoon at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.

Trailing 7-6 in the top of the seventh, Aquino delivered the game winning hit doubling home Leon Byrd and Christian Stringer for an 8-7 advantage. Byrd walked to start the frame, took second on a passed ball and landed on third when Stringer doubled off the wall in right field, just out of reach of Philip Clark. Aquino stepped to the dish with one out and stroked his second hit of the contest to left field clearing the bases.

Lemond (4-1) notched his fourth win of the season and second of the series after scattering four hits during his three-plus innings with three strikeouts. On the weekend Lemond fired 5.1 scoreless frames with seven punch-outs allowing five hits. Rice starter Kevin McCanna lasted just 2.1 innings after being touched for five runs (three earned) on three hits. Chase McDowell allowed two runs (both earned) on three hits in three innings out of the bullpen.

Jake Harris (1-3) took the loss allowing one run (earned) on four hits with a pair of strikeouts in three innings of work. Ryan Williams, who started midweek action against No. 27 NC State, gave up six runs (all earned) on nine hits with two punch-outs in 5.2 innings. Andy Smithmyer faced two batters in one-third of an inning surrendering a run (earned).

Rice jumped out to a 1-0 lea in the top of the second thanks to an RBI single by Michael Ratterree. Aquino started the stanza with a double to left center and came around to score two batters later on the first of Ratterree’s two base hits.

The Pirates answered the Owls with three runs in the bottom of the second thanks to Dylan Brown’s three-run homer to right field. Drew Reynolds, who extended his current hit streak to seven games, doubled down the left field line to start the inning. Chase McDonald followed with a walk putting runners on first and second for Brown, who stroked his third homer of the season for a 3-0 advantage.

An RBI ground out by Zach Houchins and an RBI single by Reynolds pushed ECU’s lead to 5-1 in the third. Bryan Bass started things off with a single up the middle followed by a sac bunt by Jack Reinheimer to third, where he reached on a throwing error by Connor Teykl. Jay Cannon moved the runners up 90 feet on another sac bunt for the first out. After Rice went to the bullpen to bring in McDowell, Houchins ground out to short scoring Bass and moving Reinheimer to third, who would score on Reynolds second hit of the day, this time with a shot back up the middle.

Five runs and six hits in the sixth inning helped Rice regain the lead at 6-5. Byrd, Stringer and Ford Stainback roped three consecutive singles. Williams retired Aquino with his second strikeout of the afternoon before Keenan Cook singled home Byrd for the first run of the stanza. Geoff Perrott followed with a two-RBI base knock up the middle plating Stringer and Stainback pulling within one, 5-4. Ratterree’s sac fly to right field pushed across Cook and Skyler Ewing’s double to left center scored Perrott to cap the inning.

ECU scored two more runs in the bottom of the sixth taking a 7-6 lead. With one out, Brown doubled down the right field line, which was followed by Chris Gosik’s walk. Rice went to the bullpen bringing in Lemond, who was greeted by an RBI single from Luke Lowery just over the third baseman’s head knotting the game at six-all. Reinheimer loaded the bases with two outs on an infield single and Cannon singled to left field scoring Philip Clark, who pinch ran for Lowery. Houchins ended the frame when he popped up to first leaving a pair of runners stranded in scoring position.

Four Pirates combined for eight of their 10 hits with Bass, Brown, Cannon and Reynolds all recording two base knocks. Lowery and Reinheimer also recorded hits to round out ECU offense. All nine of Rice’s starters collected at least one hit with Aquino, Ratteree, Stainback and Stringer each posting a pair.

ECU will be back in action on Tuesday, Apr. 9 when it travels to instate rival NC State. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. (ET).