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09/15/2006 12:30 AM ET
Pence, Hooks pound Wranglers
Corpus Christi chases Hochevar en route to 9-3 victory
Hunter Pence is hitting .440 with nine RBIs and six runs scored in six playoff games. (Shawn E. Davis/


Two nights after struggling to score in a one-run loss, Corpus Christi lit up Luke Hochevar and Wichita in a 9-3 win Thursday to take a 2-1 lead in the Texas League Championship Series.

The Hooks were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position in Tuesday's 2-1 loss but had no such trouble in this one, scoring three runs in each of the first two innings to chase Hochevar, the top overall pick in this year's draft.

Hunter Pence went 3-for-4, scored twice and was one of four Hooks with two RBIs as Corpus Christi took an 8-1 lead in the bottom of the third and cruised the rest of the way.

"We just had a lot of great at-bats," Pence said. "We had a lot of two-out RBIs and lot of big pitches in big situations. We got out there and got after it. ...Tonight was our night."

Pence, who leads the league with nine postseason RBIs, started a two-out rally in the first with a double. Walter Young walked before Josh Bonifay singled in Pence. Mark Saccomanno cleared the bases with a double to the wall in left-center, giving the Hooks a 3-0 lead.

Young knew the early offense was going to make it easier on the Hooks' pitching staff.

"If we get runs early on, of course it's going to help the pitcher relax," Young said. "Our hitting's on fire right now, and we just want to continue that tomorrow night."

In the next frame, Pence kept the pressure on Hochevar with a two-out RBI double, scoring Osvaldo Fernando. Young followed with a ground-rule double to right field that brought in Tike Redman and Pence to make it 6-0.

The 22-year-old righty from the University of Tennessee gave up six runs on six hits and two walks while fanning two. His ERA rose to 9.82 from 1.17.

Before Thursday's outing, Hochevar hadn't had much trouble in Double-A. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his first Texas League appearance, a series-clinching win against Tulsa on Sept. 8.

Hooks starter Chance Douglass tossed six strong innings, allowing one run on six hits and four walks while striking out 10.

With such a cushion after three innings, Douglass didn't have to worry about losing the game with one bad pitch.

"That early run support was huge," he said. "In games like this, the hardest thing to do is relax. And to be able to go out there with a big lead and not worry as much, that made it a lot easier."

The 22-year-old righty went 7-8 in 28 starts during the regular season, including an ugly 1-6 run in July and August, but he's 2-0 in the playoffs for the Hooks.

Josh Miller pitched two scoreless frames before Paul Estrada gave up two runs on back-to-back homers by Alex Gordon and Dee Brown in the ninth.

After struggling on Tuesday, the Hooks scored seven runs with two outs, while Wichita stranded 10 runners, including six in scoring position.

"I think it was just a case of 'you're not gonna keep us down,'" Douglass said about the Hooks' turnaround. "We're going to get opportunities and most of the time we're going to take advantage of them. We missed some breaks [Tuesday] and a couple of things went their way, but we weren't going to let that affect us today."

Corpus Christi can wrap up its first title since 1958 with a win in Game 4 on Friday at 8:05 p.m. ET.

Dan Pieringer is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.