March 24, 2012
Rice improved to 18-7 overall and 2-0 in C-USA action with the team's second-straight win. Memphis is now 9-13 on the year and 0-2 in the league.
What a difference a day, and one inning, can make. After a classic 1-0 pitcher's duel (won by Rice) in the opening game of the three-game weekend series on Friday night, and then another tight 5-4 score heading into the top of the eighth inning in Saturday's game, the Owls broke the contest open with nine runs. The Blue & Gray registered its biggest inning of the season by sending 14 men to the plate and collecting eight base hits, including three doubles.
Rice then added another run in the top of the ninth for a 15-4 final score. The Owls finished with 14 hits in the game. Five players posted two or hits in the game, four finished with two RBI and there were four who scored twice.
The first six innings of the game were a sharp contrast to the final third of the game. There was no scoring until Rice pushed across a run in the top of the third inning. Christian Stringer punched a one-out base hit through the right side. He stole second to move into scoring position and scored on a single to right by J.T. Chargois.
In the fourth Owls Shane Hoelscher, Ryan Lewis and Michael Ratterree all drew walks to load the bases with one away. Sophomore Derek Hamilton was hit by a pitch to force in a run that made the score 2-0.
Memphis' T.J. Rich singled up the middle to start the fifth. He scored on a one-out double to right field by Carter White to cut the margin in half, 2-1. The Tigers tied the score in with a run in the sixth on three-consecutive singles to even it up, 2-2.
Rice came right back and regained the lead in the top of the seventh. Singles by Michael Fuda and Jeremy Rathjen put runners on first and third with one away. Memphis made the play at home on Craig Manuel's squeeze bunt, but the Owls still had men on first and second base. Hoelscher delivered a clutch base hit up the middle to score Rathjen from second, but a Tiger fielding error on the play allowed Manuel to score from first base and Hoelscher to reach third. Lewis drove Hoelscher home with a base hit to left to give Rice its biggest lead of the weekend at 5-2.
The Tigers turned a pair of walks in the bottom of the seventh into two more runs. White and Ford Wilson drew the free passes and they scored on a single by Ethan Gross and a double by Adam McClain to make the score 5-4.
Rice led off the super-charged eighth with two walks and two hits before the Tigers could get an out. The Owls then proceeded to bat around off the Memphis bullpen to put the game out of reach.
Freshman Jordan Stephens started on the mound for Rice and worked 4.1 innings. He allowed one run on five hits with a walk and struck out six. John Simms worked the next inning, and he was followed on the hill by Tyler Duffey, Chargois, Taylor Wall and Evan Rutter. The staff combined for 11 strikeouts, allowing 11 hits and three walks.
The C-USA weekend series concludes on Sunday. First pitch of the series finale is 12:30 pm (a change from some earlier listings).