March 31, 2012
HOUSTON - Early walks helped Southern Miss take a quick lead and the Golden Eagles hung-on for a narrow 2-1 Conference USA win over the Rice baseball team in Saturday's second game of a three-game C-USA weekend series Saturday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Rice put itself in jeopardy in the top of the first inning. The Owls walked two, and hit another, to load the bases just three batters into the game. Conner Barron scored on a ground out. Rice went on to work out of the inning without any further damage on the scoreboard, but Southern Miss was up 1-0 without recording any hits.
In the top of the third, two walks and a fielder's choice loaded the bases again for Southern Miss. When Chase Fowler delivered a two-out single to score Mason Robbins that stretched the Golden Eagles' lead to 2-0, Rice had already issued six free passes and hit one through the first three frames.
Trailing 2-0 the Owls answered with a run in the bottom of the third to cut the margin in half. Geoff Perrot lined a leadoff double to left-center. He scored one-out single by Christian Stringer that extended his current hitting streak to 16 games.
There was still a lot of baseball left to play, the Owls just needed to keep Southern Miss in check and pick up some timely hits in a one-run contest. Owl reliever John Simms was doing his part after entering the game at the start of the fourth inning. The sophomore from The Woodlands, Tex., allowed just one hit and tied a season-high with six strikeouts while firing a season-best 4.2 scoreless innings. Right-hander Tyler Duffey followed suit for the final 1.1 shutout innings by not allowing any hits and striking out two.
"We managed to piece together what looks like a pretty well pitched game because they only scored two runs on four hits," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "The pitching early hurt us, and we still got out of it. John was on his game today and pitched better as the game went on."
Simms was in gear but the Rice offense could not find the equalizer. For the game the Owls out-hit Southern Miss 9-4, including three hits for extra-bases. The Blue & Gray stranded at least one runner in scoring position in every inning between the third and eighth. Rice also had the tying run on base in the ninth.
Rice junior right fielder Jeremy Rathjen was one of three Owls with two or more hits and he was on base a total of three times. He raised his average to .367 Saturday, but instead of coming up with men already on base, Rathjen found himself leading off an inning four different times.
"You deal with the situation you're put in," Rathjen said. "It's not the final result we want, but we know we can hit. We could have helped ourselves a couple of different times. We'll work harder the next time and manufacture some runs."
Southern Miss starting pitcher Jake Drehoff worked 8.2 innings to improve to 4-0 on the season. Bradley Roney recorded the final out for his fourth save. The Golden Eagles' win evened the three-game series 1-1.
Rice is now 20-9 overall and 3-2 in C-USA action. Southern Miss improved to 16-11 on the year and 3-2 in conference. The C-USA weekend series concludes Sunday at 1:07 pm and is set for a television broadcast by Fox Sports Net.