March 31, 2006
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina's two-out two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth came a little short as Houston picked up its fourth consecutive win in Conference USA play Friday night by beating the Pirates 4-3 at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Cougar (17-12, 4-0) starter Brad Lincoln tied a season-high with 12 strike outs and improved to 6-1 after allowing just one run on six hits in eight innings of work. For Lincoln it was his third double-digit strike out performance of the season and the fifth of his career.
ECU (17-11, 1-3) mounted a comeback in the bottom of the ninth when Ryan Tousley, Jay Mattox and Ryan Wood collected three straight singles with one out. Brandon Henderson drove in a two runs with his single to right field to pull the Pirates within one run, 4-3 with two outs. Dale Mollenhauer walked to load the bases before Jake Smith flied out to left field to end the game.
Pirate starter T.J. Hose, who worked a season-high 7 1/3 innings allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out three batters, fell to 3-2. Kevin Rhodes, Jason Neitz, Scott Andrews and Chris Powell combined to pitch the final 2 2/3 innings.
Smith, Mattox and Wood led the Pirates at the plate picking two hits each. Sophomore Jamie Ray extended his hit streak to eight games with a single to third, while Tousley, Henderson and Harrison Eldridge each added a hit for ECU.
Clayton Boone picked up his third save of the season after recording the final two outs in the ninth inning. Aaron Brown, who gave way to Boone, faced four Pirate batters allowing three hits and one run in 1/3 of an inning of work.
Lincoln and Travis Cougot combined for half the Cougars hits with each collecting two.
Smith knocked in his 33rd RBI of the season in the bottom of the third to give the Pirates an early 1-0 lead. Drew Schieber got the inning going when he advanced to first on a Luis Flores throwing error before advancing to second on Eldridge's single to left field. Mollenhauer loaded the bases with a walk and Smith's sac fly scored Schieber.
Lincoln tied the game in the top of the fourth with a one out single to left field scoring Dustin Kingsbury, who doubled to lead the inning, tying the game at one.
Houston took a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh inning on Matt Weston's sacrifice fly to left-center that scored Lincoln from third. Lincoln reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to third on Josh Stirneman's single to right.
The Cougars scored a run in eighth inning and got the eventual go ahead run in the top of the ninth when Bryan Tulley doubled to center field scoring Matt Farrington to push the lead to 4-1.
The Pirates and Cougars will be back in action Saturday night for game two of the three-game Conference USA series with a first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. (EST).