April 6, 2007
GREENVILLE, N.C. -- The eighth-ranked Rice baseball team made the most of its opportunities to score four runs on seven hits, and freshman pitcher Ryan Berry posted another dominating start in consecutive outings on the way to a career-high 12 strikeouts in 7.0 shutout innings as the Owls blanked 22nd-ranked East Carolina 4-0 in the opening game of a three-game Conference USA weekend series Friday night in Greenville, NC.
After a complete game victory with 11 strikeouts at home last week against Marshall, Berry was back in form again on the road against the Pirates. The Humble, Tex., native scattered four singles and walked just one while setting a new career-best in strikeouts against an ECU team that entered the game with a 20-3 home record.
The Owls hustled to open the scoring in the top of the fifth inning with a run. Junior Brian Friday laced a hit into left-center and used his speed to stretch it into a double. Freshman Diego Seastrunk singled to right that put men on the corners. Junior Jordan Dodson followed by checking a slow roller between third and shortstop. The Pirates elected to try and get out of the inning by turning a double play. Seastrunk was retired, but Dodson sprinted down the line and beat the throw to the bag. Friday crossed home with the run and the Blue & Gray took a 1-0 lead.
Junior Joe Savery drew a walk to lead off a two-run rally in the top of the sixth. He broke for second base on a 3-2 pitch to sophomore Aaron Luna that the slugger drove deep into the gap in left-center on a stand-up double. A single by Jared Gathart and walk to Danny Lehmann loaded the bases. Luna scored on Derek Myers' pinch-hit sacrifice fly and the Owls stretched the margin to 3-0.
The Owls added a final run in the seventh. Dodson drew a leadoff walk and back-to-back hits by Savery and Luna loaded the bases. Dodson scored on a sacrifice fly by Gayhart, making a 4-0 lead that had to seem like a mountain to climb with Berry in a groove. The closest Rice came to losing the shutout was in the third inning when an ECU player was caught in a rundown after rounding third base following a Rice fielding error. In the eighth Berry walked the leadoff hitter, his first free pass in 16-consecutive innings. He was lifted and the Pirates responded with a base hit to put runners on first and second base. Reliever Ryne Tacker
worked out of the jam by getting a pop-up and inning-ending double play.
Tacker then set the Pirates down in order in the ninth to preserve the Owls' third shutout of the season. Berry's record improved to 5-1 on the year and he lowered his season ERA to 2.58. Rice is now 24-10 this season and 6-1 in C-USA action. East Carolina is now 21-10 overall and 4-3 against the league. Saturday's second game of the weekend series is slated for a 3 pm start (Central time). Sunday's finale is set for 10 am (Central).