Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (email@example.com)
HOUSTON -- Rice had a solo home run by Andrew Dunlap before a bases-loaded triple from true freshman Ford Proctor in the bottom of the eighth inning to rally past No. 16 ranked East Carolina 4-1 Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park in Houston.
With the win Rice claimed two of the three games in the weekend series between the former conference rivals. The Owls improved to 8-7 overall in its final weekend of non-conference action.
Both starting pitchers, Rice's Ricardo Salinas and East Carolina's Jimmy Boyd, were equally sharp and settled-in for a duel. Boyd stranded an Owl in scoring position in the bottom of the first and had double-play help from the ECU defense to erase a Rice runner in the second inning. The Blue & Gray also turned two to avoid trouble in the top of the second. Salinas used a pair of strikeouts to end a Pirate threat in the fourth, but not before an ECU run had scored on a pair of hits and a balk.
The narrow 1-0 margin held as the drama reached its final acts. With one away in the bottom of the eighth inning, Dunlap connected on a 1-1 pitch. The junior from Houston (Westbury Christian H.S.) launched a solo shot that not only cleared the wall in left, but the grass hill behind the wall for good measure.
The first homer of Dunlap's collegiate career had tied the game 1-1, but the Owls weren't quite finished. Rice drew back-to-back walks off the Pirate bullpen and Grayson Lewis was hit by a pitch to load the stations. Proctor followed with a one-out triple to left-center to plate three more runs for a new 4-1 Rice lead.
Salinas had posted a new career-long with 8.0 innings and tied his career-best with six strikeouts. His solid effort included scattering five singles and allowing just one walk but his day was done. Rice went to the bullpen to start the top of the ninth.
The Pirates continued to battle and put a man on base. A ground ball from reliever Jackson Parthasarathy led to one out, and a second grounder from the freshman right-hander turned into a game-ending double play for the 4-1 final. Parthasarathy notched his second save of the season. Salinas improved to 1-1. Proctor's three RBI were a season/career high.
East Carolina is 11-4 on the season. Rice next hosts longtime foe TCU on Tuesday, March 15. Start time is set for 6:30 pm at Reckling Park. The contest will be broadcast live on the radio in the Houston area on ESPN Deportes/1180 AM.