Friday- #16 ECU 10 – Owls 1
Jon Duplantier looked really good for most of the night. One week after the 6-4 225 lb. righty struck out 14 against Central Florida, the junior struck out nine more in 6 2/3 innings against ECU on Friday night. Duplantier did allow four free passes, and six hits, in the game as he gave up four runs.
Duplantier’s fastball was solid early as the righty had the sinking action working to go along with good velocity (90-95 mph). His breaking ball had good movement as well as he was able to pull the string on hitters in the early going (80-82 mph).
“I was throwing the breaking ball really well,” said Duplantier. “When I was getting ahead in counts, or at least getting into two-strike counts, it became a guessing game.”
The wheels fell off for the Owls in the eighth inning as East Carolina added six runs to their tally against Rice’s Nick Orewiler and Willy Amador.
“Anytime you’re facing a power pitcher you want to get guys on base,” said ECU head coach Cliff Godwin on his offense’s success.”(Evan Kruczynski) was locating his fastball, and throwing his slider and change-up for strikes. We were trying to minimize the lead-off batter.”
The junior lefty was in the mid-80’s with his fastball and in the mid-70’s with his breaking ball. Kruczynski was able to spot each of his pitches down in the zone against the Owls and change speeds well in the win.
“I was commanding the ball pretty well all night,” said Kruczynski who pitched seven innings and struck out three. “I knew that I just had to hang in there against (Duplantier) and if we could get him out of there we could score some runs and that’s what happened. The defense came up clutch and got us out of those innings.”
Saturday- Rice 7 – #16 ECU 2
Blake Fox had easily his best outing of the season in what was a must win for the Rice Owls on Saturday. Another important aspect of Saturday’s game, the Owls’ offense came alive against Jacob Wolfe.
The Owls scored runs in each of the first two innings to take an early lead, then a five run eighth inning pushed Rice over the top for a 7-2 victory.
Fox was strong throughout the start though he only went 5.2 innings. He struck out seven while walking two and only allowing three hits. Fox also allowed two runs to come across, the first coming on a towering home run by Travis Watkins on a hanging change-up that stayed up in the zone.
“Those guys know how to swing a bat,” said Fox. “I just tried to stay ahead early. When I did that, I could pitch my game. When I got in trouble was when I pitched from behind in the count.”
East Carolina tied the game in the sixth when Fox allowed Parker Lamm to come across on a Kirk Morgan ground out up the middle, ending Fox’s day.
Glenn Otto went the rest of the way, his only blemish being a single base hit, but striking out four.
Coming into the weekend, Rice was averaging 4.1 runs per game as an offense (50 runs this season), but were giving up 4.8 runs per game (58 this season). Though Friday night wasn’t better offensively or defensively for the Owls, the bats showed up in their favor on Saturday. Entering the bottom of the sixth inning, the score was tied at 2 when the entire weekend shifted into Rice’s favor. The Owls scored four runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to seal the deal, and tie the series with ECU at 1-1.
“We’ve had some issues here and there (at the plate), and even our pitching has had some issues. I’m glad everything was functioning at the same rate.”
Sunday- Rice 4 – #16 ECU 1
Ricardo Salinas had a career day on Sunday and the bats woke up late as Rice came from behind to win the rubber match on Sunday. Salinas pitched eight innings, to get his first win of the season, striking out six Pirate hitters and only walking one.
Not only did Salinas tie his single game best for strikeouts (6, also Arizona Feb. 21, 2016), but he also improved his personal longest start in a Rice Owl with eight innings pitched. His previous best came on opening weekend in 2015 with 7.1 innings pitched in a win against the Texas Longhorns.
“I had all of my pitches working, my fastball and change-up mainly,” said the sophomore starter. “The main thing coming into the game was to throw strikes. I knew if you got ahead you’d be in pretty good shape. In my previous starts, I really hadn’t thrown a lot of strikes but today I did.”
Travis Watkins scored Charlie Yorgen on an RBI single up the middle in the 4th, which looked for a while like it would hold up.
The Rice bats came alive in the eighth though as the Owls struck for four runs in the inning. Andrew Dunlap continued his powerful hitting with a lead-off home run that went about 400 feet to left field, then Charlie Warren and Ryan Chandler both walked and Grayson Lewis was hit-by-pitch to load the bases for Ford Proctor. Proctor who came into the at-bat 0-2 with two strikeouts, unloaded on the first pitch he saw from Nick Durazo, a fastball over the heart of the plate, over the center fielder’s head for a bases clearing three-RBI triple.
“With a new reliever, usually first-pitch fastball is what they’ll go to,” said Proctor. “The wind has been blowing out all weekend and I was lucky enough to get one and rode the wind into left center.”