April 22, 2012
HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team rallied for one run in the bottom of the ninth inning and was looking for more with two still men on base, but East Carolina hung-on for a 4-3 win over the Owls in the finale of a three-game Conference USA weekend series Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park in Houston.
Trailing 4-2 to start the ninth, Rice would not go away so easy. Keenan stroked a leadoff double down the left field line and a walk to Michael Ratterree put the winning run on base. Christian Stringer singled and Cook scored as the ball bounded away from the Pirate defense to make it a one-run game. The Owls had runners at first and second but ECU turned a game-ending double play to secure the win, 4-3.
Rice is now 30-12 overall and 11-4 in C-USA action. The Pirates improved to 27-13-1 on the season and 9-5-1 in conference. Though pleased that the Owls had fought and rallied into the final inning, Rice head coach Wayne Graham pointed to leaving eight runners on base and batting 5-of-20 with runners in scoring position.
"We had our opportunities," said coach Graham. "We have to concentrate on things we're not doing well, like base running and bunting, and get better at it. It's that simple."
Rice looked solid in putting a run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first. Stringer collected the first of his career-high tying four hits with a single to right. He sprinted to third on J.T. Chargois' base hit and trotted home on Craig Manuel's RBI single to right.
East Carolina moved in front in the top of the fourth. Corey Thompson drew a leadoff walk and John Wooten followed with a base hit to put runners on first and second. Zach Wright singled, but an Owl fielding error on the play allowed all the runners to take an extra 90 feet and ECU's first run of the game. Wooten scored on a ground out and Wright came home on a Jack Reinheimer's sacrifice fly to make it a 3-1 game.
The Pirates extended the margin to 4-1 with another score in the fifth. Tim Younger led off with a single and scored on a Wooten base hit through the right side.
The Owls battled back. Michael Ratterree hustled to beat out a throw for a base hit and reached second on a single up the middle by Michael Fuda. Ratterree scored on a Stringer single to make the score 4-2.
"It's not the result we wanted but we were battling to the end," said Stringer - who finished the day going 4-for-5 with a double, two RBI and a run scored. "We took two-out-of-three conference games from a good team, and we were right there in the ninth inning of the last one. We also beat (Texas) A&M on the road earlier in the week. It was a really tough week."
Rice no games scheduled for the upcoming week while the University is in its final exams period for the spring semester. The Owls return to the field, and resume the current 11-game homestand, on May 2 against local foe Texas Southern. First pitch against the Tigers is slated for 2 pm.