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From the Anchor Desk
Friday, May 23, 2008

By Brian Bailey

Pirate rally sends Owls packing

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

NEW ORLEANS — All of a sudden there is a jambalaya shortage in New Orleans. That’s because there is no Rice.

Pardon the pun, but the 5th-ranked Owls are two and done in this 2008 Conference USA baseball tournament.

East Carolina rallied for a thrilling 4-3 victory. It’s only the second time in school history that the Pirates have beaten the Owls.

Early on, the Pirates' prospects for winning looked as gray as the sky above the stadium. ECU didn’t collect its first hit off Rice starter Ryan Berry until the fourth inning.

Luckily, the Pirates were able to stay in the game early on. Starter Justin Bristow didn’t have his best stuff, but his athleticism saved a run on an attempted squeeze play that finally gave the Pirates some momentum.

On that attempted squeeze, Bristow made a great flip to catcher Corey Kemp, who had the plate blocked beautifully. Rice coach Wayne Graham argued, but it was a stellar play by both the pitcher and the catcher.

It’s great to see Kyle Roller hitting the ball well. The Pirates trailed 3-0 when Roller got his team on the board with a shot to centerfield. It was Roller’s second home run of the tournament.

The Pirates took the lead with three big runs in the sixth inning. Corey Kemp got it all started with a solo home run, his 16th of the year. Stephen Batts singled, and went to second on Ryan Wood’s sacrifice bunt. Dustin Harrington drove home Batts to tie the game. Roller got a hit to move Harrington to third, and then Harrison Eldridge broke his slump by driving in what turned out to be the game-winning run.

The story of the game, though, was senior T.J. Hose. Hose was an absolute bulldog on the mound when the Pirates needed him most.

All Hose did was pitch 4.1 innings of hitless ball in relief of Bristow. Hose had his best outing in some time. He did walk four batters, but he struck out five to pick up the victory. He also had to sit through a 50-minute rain delay. He came back in the game just as tough as when the rain started.

“I think I was effectively wild,” said Hose, wearing a huge smile after the victory.

Hose said he likes the reliever role.

“When I got recruited by East Carolina, they wanted me as a closer," he recalled, "and I’ve just always had that mentality. I think it’s just carried over and over.

"Actually, before this series even started I said, ‘Coach, there’s not a guaranteed third game. So put me in a situation to win, because I just want to get out there and give us the best chance to win.’ ”

Pirate coach Billy Godwin was a polar opposite from the first day in the tournament.

“It was huge,” said Godwin. “I think it was nine in a row against those guys that we’ve lost. We’ve played some really great games with them, but this was a really great win for our kids. I just couldn’t be any happier for them.”

Godwin shook up his line-up, moving Jamie Ray and Brandon Henderson up in the order. Godwin also did some “shaking up” during the game.

“I think I rattled a few cages there one inning,” said Godwin. “I just thought we were getting frustrated on some good pitches instead of sticking in there and sticking our neck out and against a very good pitcher and battling. You can’t get frustrated. You have to keep competing. Once that happened, we did a good job of that after the fourth inning.”

Rice is out. Tulane lost its opening game. All of a sudden this is any team’s tournament to win. It could come down to pitching, where Godwin says his staff has some weapons in reserve.

“I think it will come down to pitching and we do have a deep staff," he said. "We have guys that have a lot of experience, I guess, who have pitched. So I do like our chances. We just have to play it one game at a time and win and advance.”

The Pirates are now 40-18 on the season. Win number 40 will be remembered for a long time.


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05/23/2008 04:28:47 AM


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