March 3, 2012
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HOUSTON - The No. 4 ranked Rice baseball team rallied from an early deficit to claim a 6-2 victory over longtime state rival Texas Tech in Saturday's late game of the annual Houston College Classic downtown at Minute Maid Park.
Texas Tech quickly opened the scoring with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. The Red Raiders collected a pair of base hits and stole a total of three bases that led to both scores. The Red Raiders were looking to break the game wide-open by sending eight men to the plate in the top of the first, but Owl starter Matthew Reckling worked out of the jam down 2-0.
Reckling's teammates on the offensive side answered with three runs after sending just three batters to the plate in the bottom of the frame. Christian Stringer drew a leadoff walk and Michael Fuda followed with a double to put men on second and third. Michael Ratterree then knocked three-run homer to Minute Maid Park's Crawford Boxes in left field. His second round-tripper of the season gave the Owls a 3-2 lead.
The Blue & Gray added two more in the second. Derek Hamilton led off with a single, moved into scoring position on a wild pitch and to third on a ground out. Geoff Perrott executed a text-book bunt for a base hit, but a Red Raider fielding error on the play allowed Perrott to reach all the way to third. The Owls still had the same situation with a runner on third and one away, and this time Stringer executed an identical bunt for a sacrifice and an RBI that made the score 5-2.
"I think Matthew did a good job righting-himself, and we put that splash of offense in," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham, now in his 21st season at the helm of the Owl program. "The bunts were really good for a change. We needed the safety squeeze, it's a big part of our offense and tonight we executed it well for two runs. The offense is there, they just have to keep fighting through and get some quality at bats."
In the bottom of the fifth Rice stretched the margin to four with the final run of the contest. Ratterree lined a one-out single to right-center. He scored from first base on Rathjen's two-out double that bounced off the wall in left-center that bounced in front of the home bullpen.
Reckling meanwhile had settled into a groove on the mound. After the top of the first the senior right-hander from Houston did not allow any hits again until the seventh and he recorded three 1-2-3 innings. He finished the night working 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out three.
"That first inning was pretty rough, but Coach Graham always tells us, `be an unshakeable pitcher,'" said Reckling. "I don't think I had my best stuff tonight, but I knew I needed to get us some innings. I'm not pleased with my outing, but there's some positives to build on. It was the offense that really picked me up and got things going."
Texas Tech tried to stage a two-out rally in the top of the seventh. The Red Raiders loaded the bases on a walk and two hits, prompting the Owls to call down to the bullpen. Junior right-hander Tyler Duffey entered the pressure-filled jam and promptly struck out the first Tech batter he faced on three pitches to end the inning. Duffey went on to post a 1-2-3 eighth and strong ninth on the way to his second save of the season. He struck out four without allowing any hits in 2.1 innings of relief.
Fuda and Hamilton shared the game-lead with three hits each. Ratterree's three RBI tied his season-high.
Rice improved to 10-1, a record which is the program's best start since the national championship season of 2003. The Red Raiders dropped to 8-2 with only the team's second loss of the young season.
Tournament action at the College Classic concludes on Sunday (Mar. 4). The Owls next meet Tennessee in the event's finale. First pitch with the Volunteers is set for 6:05 pm. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN3.