March 6, 2012
HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team pushed across the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning, but Texas State rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame to claim a 3-2 win over the Owls Tuesday night at Bobcat Ballpark in San Marcos, Tex.
With Rice leading 2-1 to start the bottom of the ninth, the Owls struck out the first batter but Texas State pinch-hitter Kevin Sah drew a walk and a Morgan Mickan base hit put men on the corners. Mickan moved into scoring position with a stolen base bringing up the top of the Bobcat order. Tyler Sibley singled to right-center to score both runners to end the game 3-2.
"The breaks were about even," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham, now in his 21st season at the helm of the program. "We just didn't get it done in the ninth inning. The walk was critical. Then a couple of their guys did a great job of hitting. They fought. You have to give them credit. They did a great job of hitting late."
"We had a bad pitch selection against (Sah)," coach Graham added. "We should have never thrown a curveball to him to get behind in the count when we have a fastball that's 95-mph and moves like crazy. You don't go try and trick them. You throw the fastball and go get them."
There were a total of four runs scored in the final two innings, but the game began as a pitcher's duel. Junior right-hander Andrew Benak started on the mound for Rice and was solid in allowing just four singles and a walk while matching a career-high with 10 strikeouts through six innings. He started the bottom of the seventh, but walked the leadoff batter and hit the next to put two men on base with no one out. After the Owls made a move to the bullpen to bring in Tyler Duffey, Mickan bunted for a hit to load the bases. The first run of the game scored on a ground out and Rice avoided further damage with an inning-ending double play.
Rice came right back and answered with a run in the top of the eighth. Craig Manuel clubbed a leadoff double off the wall in left field. Daniel Gonzales-Luna pinch ran for Manuel and the senior sub hustled to third on a fly ball to right field. J.T. Chargois was brought in as the new designated hitter and he promptly singled up the middle past a drawn-in Bobcat infield to tie the game 1-1.
Even scoring one run was no small feat. The Bobcats had entered the game with a streak of 50.1-straight innings without allowing any runs. The streak reached 57.2 before the Owls brought it to an end with the game-tying score.
The Owls took the lead, 2-1 in the top of the ninth. Jeremy Rathjen drew a leadoff walk and a text-book sacrifice bunt by Ryan Lewis moved him into scoring position. Shane Hoelscher followed with a double to right-center to drive Rathjen home to give the Blue & Gray their first lead of the night.
Rice dropped to 11-2 on the season. Texas State is now 9-3 overall.
After five-straight games away from home Rice returns to Reckling Park on Wednesday (Mar. 7) for a non-conference clash against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Start time against the Islanders is set for 6:30 pm. The Owls then are back on the road for a three-game weekend series against national power Stanford on March 9-11. Start times against the Cardinal are set for 7:30 pm Friday, 3 pm on Saturday and 2 pm Sunday. All start times are listed as Central Time.