March 30, 2013
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HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team rallied from a 7-1 deficit in the bottom of the eighth inning to pull within one and have the tying run on third base in the ninth inning before visiting Tulane could hold-on for a 7-6 Conference USA win over the Owls Saturday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Trailing 7-1 to start the bottom of the eighth Rice rallied for four runs in the inning and then added another in the ninth to close the margin to within one. Ford Stainback led off the dramatic bottom of the ninth with single up the middle and Leon Byrd was hit by a pitch to put men on first and second. Tulane quickly went to the bullpen for right-handed closer Ian Gibaut, and retired Christian Stringer on a sacrifice bunt that successfully moved the runners up to second and third. Stainback dashed home for a run, and Byrd sprinted to third base, on an RBI ground-out by Geoff Perrott that made the score 7-6. Owl designated hitter Michael Aquino followed by driving a pitch hard to left-centerfield, but Green Wave leftfielder Richard Carthon made the game-ending catch on the run for the 7-6 final score.
"We made a run at it and got back in the game, and certainly had a chance to tie it or even take the lead," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "We could have helped ourselves by not falling so far behind in the first place. We needed to field the bunt better and not issue so many free passes with walks and hit batters. Offensively we could have had some better at bats early in the game.
"The positive side is that we started making adjustments and getting better at bats later, and of course that we didn't quit," Graham added. "We were able to win (the best-of-three) series this weekend. It's possible a game like this can help us if we are able to learn from it."
Tulane needed only a single hit to put three big runs on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning. A walk and two hit batters helped lead to a run and Sean Potkay plated two more with an RBI single. The Green Wave added another score in the second. After a leadoff walk, back-to-back two-out singles by Blake Crohan and Brandon Boudreaux extended the lead to 4-0.
Rice chipped away for its first run of the game in the fifth thanks mainly to a leadoff double down the left field line by Keenan Cook. The Owls were down 4-1 and there were three full innings left to play.
Tulane, however, then added three more runs in the seventh on two hits, the staff's third hit-batsman of the game and an Owl fielding error which proved to be critical. The miscue helped the Green Wave get one additional unearned run and stretch the margin to six, 7-1.
Rice's fight did not die. In the eighth the Blue & Gray sent eight men to the plate for four runs and new life with a 7-5 score. Byrd was hit with a pitch, Stringer walked and Perrot singled to load the bases. Aquino then chopped a single behind third for one RBI. His hustle and alert base-running eventually led to the Owls' final run of the frame two batters later when he tagged and scored on tricky fly foul ball that Carthon caught while sliding near the bleachers on the left side. It helped set the stage for the pressure-filled ninth inning, where Rice ended with the tying run on third base.
The Owls fell to 20-10 on the season and 4-2 in C-USA league play after taking the best-of-three series, two-games to one. Tulane improved to 15-15 overall and 3-3 in conference action.
Rice next closes out the current homestand on Monday night, April 1. Rice hosts longtime for Texas State at 6:30 pm at Reckling Park.