Feb. 21, 2012
Michael Fuda went a career-best 4-for-5 with an RBI to lead a season 14-hit attack as the No. 4-ranked Rice baseball team claimed a 7-5 victory over visiting New Mexico State Tuesday evening at Reckling Park in Houston. The Owls stayed unbeaten (4-0) heading into Wednesday's finale of the two-game midweek series vs. NMSU.
Fuda and the Rice offense was in high-gear Tuesday night. The Owls scored two runs in each of the first three innings and added one more in the fourth for an early seven runs on the scoreboard. Four players collected two or more hits and eight of the nine starters in the lineup had at least one hit.
New Mexico State struck for run in the top of the first inning, but the Blue & Gray responded with two in the bottom of the frame. The highlight was a solo home run by junior Jeremy Rathjen for his second round-tripper of the season,
The Aggies came right back and tied the game, 2-2, in the top of the second after a pair of leadoff hits and an RBI single by designated hitter Cody Edwards. Rice rallied with two away to go back on top in its at bat. Fuda drove-in Derek Hamilton for one and an NMSU fielding error allowed a second run to score to make it 4-2.
New Mexico State continued to fight and pushed across two runs in the third. Tanner White led off with a single and Zach Voight walked. The runners moved up 90-feet on a balk and proceeded to score on Parker Hipp's sacrifice fly and a ground out.
The Owls moved in front for good on their next at bat. Rathjen led off the third with a single and J.T. Chargois followed with a bunt base hit. Shane Hoelscher advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, but he was also safe on the play after an Aggie fielding error that loaded the bases. Ryan Lewis drew a walk to force Rathjen home for the first score and Chargois scored on Michael Ratterree's sacrifice fly to make it 6-3.
Rice stretched the margin to 7-4 in the fourth. Christian Stringer led off with a walk and he hustled to third on Fuda's single to right-center field. Craig Manuel was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Stringer scored on a sacrifice fly by Rathjen. NMSU closed out the scoring with a run in the top of the eighth for a 7-5 final.
Redshirt sophomore Chase McDowell started on the mound for Rice in his first appearance since being sidelined the final two-thirds of last season. He worked a full-inning on a pitch-limit in his first time back on the mound since last March. McDowell gave way to senior Taylor Wall in the second inning and the left-hander worked the next 5.0 frames to earn his second win of the season. Wall allowed two runs on five hits with a season-high four strikeouts.
Reliever Tyler Duffey worked the seventh and eighth innings and had one strikeout. Chargois was brought in from starting designated hitter to ninth-inning closer and was up to the challenge. The Sulphur, La., native fired a scoreless ninth for his first save of the season. Chargois posted the first two saves of his career last season.
Rice improved to 4-0 on the season. New Mexico State dropped to 3-2. The teams conclude the two-game series on Wednesday (Feb. 22) at Reckling Park. Start time is set for 4:30 pm.
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