March 23, 2012
Matthew Reckling needed to post a 1-0 complete game victory on the road at Memphis in the Conference USA opener for both teams Friday night at FedEx Park in Memphis, Tenn.
Reckling was sensational in pitching the first complete game of his career. The senior from Houston scattered three hits and one walk while striking out eight. He improved to 4-0 on the season, lowered his season ERA to 1.05, and helped Rice claim a share of first place in the C-USA standings as conference action began across the league.
Both Reckling and Memphis starter Sam Moll were locked in a scoreless pitchers' duel for the first seven innings. In the top of the eighth Rice junior Michael Ratterree drew a leadoff walk and a one-out double off the left field wall by Jeremy Rathjen put runners on second and third. Ratterree scored on Shane Hoelscher's ground ball to the right side to break deadlock.
It proved to be the only score of the contest, but Reckling made it stand up by finishing off the Tigers in the final two innings, but without one final dramatic defensive play. In the bottom of the ninth Memphis drew a one-out walk and Reckling hit a batter to put runners on first and second. Owl first baseman J.T. Chargois then made a sensational leaping stop of a bouncing ground ball to get the second out of the inning unassisted, but both runners advanced one station. Memphis now had two runners in scoring position, but Reckling got the final out with fly ball to right field to close out the 1-0 final.
Chargois doubles as a first baseman and as the team's closer. He may not have been needed to close Reckling's complete game effort Friday, but the Owl starting pitcher was ready to credit the closer and the defense with an unofficial save.
"J.T.'s play was incredible, and saved the game," said Reckling. "It was a fabulous play and fabulous job by the defense. We also had a big-time (4-6-3) double play back in the third that ended that inning. Don't forget that one. The defense played a great game behind me. Those guys make the wheels turn. I just had to throw the ball in there and let them work.
"I wanted to be aggressive, force contact and move the fast ball around," Reckling said. "I was confident in my breaking ball and thought the change-ups were helping. All three pitches were working for strikes."
The complete game was the first of the season by an Owl pitcher. It was the first by a Rice pitcher since Abe Gonzales' complete game victory over Alcorn State in the 2011 NCAA Regional.
Rice improved to 17-7 on the season and 1-0 in C-USA action. Memphis is now 9-12 overall and 0-1 in the league. The C-USA weekend series continues through Sunday. Saturday's game time against the Tigers is set for 2 pm. The series finale is 12:30 pm (a change from some earlier listings).