Feb. 26, 2012
Michael Ratterree clubbed a bases-clearing double to key a four-run fifth inning that helped lift the No. 4 ranked Rice baseball team to a come-from-behind 7-3 victory over visiting Dallas Baptist Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park in Houston.
With the win the Rice completed a sweep of the three-game weekend series and remained unbeaten on the young season at 8-0. The undefeated ledger matched the program's best start to a season since the 2001 team began the year 8-0.
On Sunday the Owls had to rally to catch a talented Dallas Baptist squad that advanced to an NCAA Super Regional last season. The Patriots struck for a run in the top of the first on a two-out single by Duncan McAlpine scored Ronnie Mitchell. DBU doubled the margin to 2-0 in the third after a sacrifice fly by Mitchell.
Rice hustled for a run in the fourth before taking the lead for good in the following frame. In the fourth Ratterree reached on a fielder's choice, moved to second on a base hit to left by Michael Aquino, and scored on J.T. Chargois' two-out single to center.
Derek Hamilton led off the fifth with a base hit and he moved to scoring position on Geoff Perrott's sacrifice bunt. He scored on Michael Fuda's two-out single to tie the game 2-2, but the Owls weren't finished. Shane Hoelscher followed with a single and Jeremy Rathjen drew a walk to load the bases. Ratterree then knocked a dramatic double to center field to clear the bases and put the Blue & Gray in front, 5-2.
"I'm amazed we did as well as we did because their starting pitcher was dominating us early," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "He shut us out for three, and we wound up getting five runs off of him. It's a sign of maturity when a starter can shut you out for three and we come back and get five runs."
Rice had the lead, but the contest was far from over. The Owls needed a sound and solid effort from the bullpen to keep the Patriots in check. Senior left-hander Taylor Wall delivered. He entered the game back in the fourth and worked out of a two-on, no outs jam by picking off a runner, getting a strikeout and easy grounder to second base.
Wall went on to work a total of 4.2 innings, scattering four hits without any walks and striking out two. The senior from Houston allowed just one run, which was unearned, in the seventh after an Owl fielding error.
"Taylor is probably better right now than he's ever been," coach Graham said. "His stuff is better ever because he's added that curve ball and his fast ball is back where it needs to be. He's really doing well."
Rice got the run right back in the bottom of the seventh. Fuda doubled to left for his second hit of the day and came home on an RBI single into left by Rathjen made the score 6-3.
The Owls closed out the scoring in the bottom of the eighth. Walks to Chargois and Hamilton put two men on and Craig Manuel punched a base hit through the right side to make it 7-3. Junior right-hander Tyler Duffey entered the game in relief of Wall in the eighth and closed out the ninth with a scoreless inning for his first save of the season.
"Our pitching has been pretty strong overall," Wall said. "We have a lot of guys that can come in pound the (strike) zone. We get ahead in the count. That keeps the defense involved, and the fielders all like that. All us pitchers know that our lineup is going to hit sooner or later. Mike came up with that big hit to give us the lead and that was the game-changer. We see him do that all the time in practice."
After an eight-game homestand to start the season Rice moves into challenging stretch of five-straight games away from Reckling Park. The Owls play at crosstown rival Houston on Tuesday (Feb. 28) in a non-conference clash. The team heads way downtown to play at Minute Maid Park over the weekend in the annual Houston College Classic (Mar. 2-4) before a midweek road game at Texas State on Mar. 6.