Feb. 7, 2006
HOUSTON - Like the season-opener three days before, freshman Aaron Luna clubbed a home run in his first at bat of the game to give the Rice baseball team the lead in the bottom of first inning Tuesday afternoon at Reckling Park. The Owls' bullpen then halted three McNeese State rallies over the game's final five innings on the way to a 6-2 win over the Cowboys before a crowd of 2,550.
Luna belted homers in each of his first two collegiate at bats in the Owls 2006 season-opening win Saturday before subbing out of the game with a comfortable 8-0 in the fourth inning. The newcomer from Southlake was back for more of the same Tuesday. Sophomore Tyler Henley was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the first and sophomore Brian Friday singled to build an early threat. Luna connected on a 1-0 pitch that cleared the wall and gave the Owls a 3-0 advantage. In his first three at bats at the Division I level, Luna was 3-for-3 with three home runs and six RBI.
McNeese State came right back and answered with a run in the top of the second. Joe Hulett drew a two-out walk and went to second on a single by David Leatherwood. Beau Knowles laced a ball to center to score Hulett, but Henley made a great play to prevent a double and relayed the ball back into junior all-America shortstop Josh Rodriguez. Rodriguez looked Knowles back to first base, but turned and fired the ball to get Leatherwood sprinting for home.
The Cowboys had men in scoring position in the fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth, but Rice pitchers allowed only one more run the rest of the way. In the seventh McNeese scored to make the score 3-2 and had the tying run 90-feet away. Sophomore Cole St.Clair came out of the bullpen and notched a strikeout to end the threat.
Rice added a pair of insurance runs on two hits and two walks in the bottom of the frame and one more in the eighth to make the score 6-2. McNeese began one last rally in the ninth with two men on base but senior closer Bryce Cox ended the game with a ground out and strikeout.
Six Rice pitchers combined to hold the Cowboys to four hits and five walks while striking out a season-high 17. Sophomore Bobby Bell improved to 1-0 with six strikeouts in a pre-determined four-inning start. McNeese State fell to 2-2 on the season.
Rice (2-0) next heads downtown for the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park, Feb. 10-12. The Owls' first opponent in the annual tournament is Texas Tech on Friday at 3:30 pm. Rice meets Texas on Saturday (7 pm) and TCU on Sunday at 6 pm.