East Carolina Pirates burgle weekend series from Tigers
First came the rain. Then came East Carolina, who dampened the Conference USA opening weekend for The University of Memphis. The Pirates defeated the Tigers in the C-USA opener and took the weekend series from the Tigers, two games to one.
Rain in the area forced both clubs to alter the times of the first pitch in two of the three games. Both squads agreed to play on Friday as planned, and then a double-header on Saturday starting with the first pitch beginning at 9 a.m. to avoid the inclement weather.
A lack of hitting plagued the Tigers in the series, largely due to East Carolina boasting one of the best pitching staffs in C-USA. The Tigers dropped the first game of the series, 3-2, despite sophomore Dan Langfield's 6.1 innings with four strikeouts. ECU held the Tigers to just five hits in the game, with two hits each coming from Robby Graham and the conference's leading hitter, Chad Zurcher.
The first game of the double-header on Saturday proved to be best for the Tigers in a 3-2 victory. Seven Tigers had hits in the game as they snapped a 12-game losing streak in C-USA road openers. Ben Paullus (1-0) pitched 3.2 innings to earn the victory on the mound in relief of Memphis starter Ryan Holland.
Paullus allowed no hits on the day and struck out five batters while walking one. Holland pitched 5.1 innings and allowed two runs on eight hits. He struck out two and walked two. East Carolina reliever Brad Mincey (4-1) took the loss after allowing one run in the seventh.
T.J. Rich sparked the Tigers to their first run in the game. Rich advanced to second on a balk by ECU starting pitcher Mike Wright and Robby Graham hit an RBI-double to bat in Rich, giving The U of M a 1-0 lead. The Tigers then used a lead-off walk to Graham in the fourth to increase the lead to 2-0. The Pirates would rally in the bottom of the fifth to tie the score at 2, but the Tigers held on to win the game by scoring another run in the seventh.
The last game of the series went to the Pirates, who won, 5-3. Clayton Gant started for The U of M and pitch 6.2 innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on 10 hits. He struck out one and walked three.
The Tigers open a 10-game home-stand on Wednesday with a doubleheader against Mississippi Valley State. The U of M plays 18 of its next 23 games in the Bluff City with one game at AutoZone Park.
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