NORFOLK, Va. - Rice rallied for one run and had the bases loaded in the ninth inning, but Old Dominion held-on for a narrow 9-8 win over the visiting Owls baseball team in Saturday's second game of the Conference USA weekend series in Norfolk, Va.
Down two runs to start the ninth and with no shortage drama, the Owls began their comeback bid. Leon Byrd led off with a single and John Clay Reeves reached on an Old Dominion fielding error that put Rice runners on first and second. Kirby Taylor singled up the middle that allowed the speedy Byrd to score and cut the margin to one, 9-8.
Still with men on first and second and none-away, Tristan Gray sacrificed the runners up an extra 90 feet. Old Dominion was able to get a strikeout for the second out, but went to its bullpen as both of Rice's two upcoming hitters (Charlie Warren and Connor Teykl) bat from the left side.
Still fighting, Warren drew a walk to load the stations. Teykl then battled ODU's Jake Joseph in an 11-pitch at bat. Teykl fouled-off eight in a row before lining a shot to right-center field, only to have the Monarch's Nick Walker sprint for a sliding catch to end the rally.
Old Dominion improved to 12-7 on the season and 3-2 in league play by taking both of the first two games of the weekend series. Rice is now 15-9 overall with its third-straight loss and 6-2 in C-USA action.
Early in the contest it look like the Owls were on track for a runaway win. Rice struck for three runs in the top of the first inning on three hits and an Old Dominion fielding error. Ryan Chandler lined the game's first pitch off second base, and Ford Stainback singled to the right side to put runners at the corners. Leon Byrd followed with a double to left-center to drive-in two, but an ODU error on the relay throw allowed Byrd to take an extra 90 feet to third. The miscue ended up leading to an extra run a Byrd was able to hustle home on a ground out before the inning ended.
The Monarchs answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. The first two batters, PJ Higgins and Josh Eldridge, singled and a Taylor Ostrich double made the score 3-1. ODU was looking for more by eventually loading the bases, but Rice worked out of the jam. Grayson Lewis fielded a hot shot at third, stepped on third and made the long throw across the infield for an inning-ending double play.
The Owls' top of the order created two more runs in the top of the third. Stainback drew a leadoff walk and hustled to third on Byrd's singled to right field. John Clay Reeves then punched a base hit into right that scored Stainback with Byrd now taking third. Byrd scored a sacrifice fly by Kirby Taylor to stretch the lead to 5-1.
Old Dominion fought back for a pair thanks to a longball, then took advantage of three Rice fielding errors for four more unearned scores in a big six-run fifth. A one-out walk and two-run homer by Mike Perez made the score 5-3. Back-to-back Owl errors on ground balls that could have ended the threat, however, kept the Monarchs alive. Rice made one more error after a strikeout. The ninth batter of the inning, Derek Francis, clubbed a bases-loaded double to left-center to give ODU a 7-5 advantage.
Rice chipped away to level the score. In the top of the fifth, Kirby Taylor blasted a one-out solo home run to left field to make it 7-6. In the sixth, Warren stroked a leadoff single and advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch. He went to third on a ground out to the right side and scored on Chandler's sacrifice fly to make it seven-all.
The Owls gave away two more runs on three hits and a crucial fielding error in the bottom half as ODU went up 9-7. The leadoff batter reached on an error and two runs eventually came around to score after Rice should have worked its way out of the inning - including a round-the-horn 5-4-3 double play.
Rice had no trouble tallying 16 hits for four Rice pitchers, but a season-high tying five runs and also leaving ten men on base turned the tide. The three-game C-USA weekend concludes Sunday. First pitch in the series finale is scheduled for noon (Central Time).