March 30, 2014
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee scored six runs in the middle innings and held-off the visiting Rice baseball team late to claim an 8-5 win over the Owls in the Sunday finale of the three-game series in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Middle Tennessee, which also won the weekend's opening game on Friday, claimed the series two-games-to-one. Rice is now 21-9 on the season and 9-3 in C-USA league play. The Blue Raiders improved to 12-14 overall and 7-5 in conference.
The Owls went right to work for a run in the top of the first inning. Keenan Cook lined a one-out triple down the right field line. He trotted home on Skyler Ewing's RBI double into the left field for a 1-0 lead.
Rice had chances for more runs with two men on in the second, and the bases loaded with one out in the fourth. Middle Tennessee avoided damage and tied the score in the bottom of the fourth. Dustin Delgado led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and an extra station on an Owl fielding error on the play. He scored on double-play for a new 1-1 game.
The Blue Raiders started the bottom of the fifth with three consecutive singles load the bases. A walk forced in one run, and a wild pitch, single and double to left plated five more to build a 6-1 advantage.
The Owls battled back for three runs in the top of the eighth. Michael Aquino singled with one away and Connor Teykl drew a walk as a pinch-hitter. Leon Byrd followed with a double down the right field line to score Aquino. Teykl came home on a fielding error. Keenan Cook then punched an RBI single into right that plated Byrd to make it 6-4.
Middle Tennessee came back with two runs in the eighth on three hits and a wild pitch. The Blue Raiders finished with 13 hits. Six Rice pitchers, Chase McDowell, Matt Ditman, John Duplantier, Austin Orewiler and Ryan McCarthy saw action.
Rice battled for one last run in the ninth. Shane Hoelscher lined a double to right and Connor Teykl drove him with a single through the right side for an 8-5 final. Aquino matched his three-hit day from Saturday while Byrd went 2-for-4 with a double, RBI and run scored.
Rice next returns home to begin a four-game homestand on April 1. The Owls host longtime rival Texas on Tuesday night, followed a three-game weekend series vs. C-USA foe East Carolina. Start time with the Longhorns is set for 6:30 pm at Reckling Park.