Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HOUSTON -- Junior right-hander Jon Duplantier was sensational in firing a complete game three-hitter with 11 strikeouts to help lead the Rice baseball team to a 3-1 victory over visiting Old Dominion in the opener of a three-game Conference USA weekend series Friday night at Reckling Park in Houston.
Duplantier recorded the Owls' first complete game on the mound since Kevin McCanna vs. UAB in 2014. Two of the three hits Duplantier allowed were in the top of the second inning when Old Dominion tallied its lone run, but the score was unearned after Rice dropped a pop fly in the outfield and could have been safely out of the inning.
After ODU's Justin Hayes singled to lead off the third, Duplantier proceeded to retire the next 15 in a row. Keeping a Monarch team that entered the contest with a seven-game win streak in check was critical because ODU had kept Rice off the scoreboard with some steady pitching from veteran Sam Sinnen.
The Owls broke through in the bottom of the sixth. Charlie Warren punched a single through the left side and moved to second on Cody Staab's sacrifice bunt. Ryan Chandler singled to drive in the tying run and hustled to second as ODU threw home on the play. The got away from the Monarch defense, however, and Chandler alertly sprinted an extra 90 feet to third. He scored easily on Ford Proctor's RBI single to give Rice the lead, 2-1.
Rice did add one more insurance run later, but any lead was all the room Duplantier would need. He didn't allow a walk until one away in the top of the eighth (to end the streak of 15-straight retired batters), but came back with five consecutive strikeouts to close out 3-1 final. His 11 strikeouts were his second-highest total of the season as he improved to 2-2 on the year.
On the offensive side Chandler finished going 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Rice collected a total of nine hits. The Owls improved to 12-9 overall with the team's third-straight win. Rice is 3-1 in C-USA league play. Old Dominion is now 18-5 on the season and 3-1 in conference.
The C-USA series continues through Sunday (March 27). Saturday's first pitch is set for 2 pm. Note Sunday's and new 1 pm start time, a recent change from some earlier listings.