Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (email@example.com)
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- The Rice baseball team saw its six-game win-streak come to an end as Middle Tennessee claimed a 3-0 win over the Owls Friday evening in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Rice couldn't have known at the time that it's best offensive opportunity, with a chance to get on the board and deflate a hungry Middle Tennessee squad and the Blue Raiders' home crowd, was in the top of the very first inning. Ryan Chandler laced a two-out base hit into left field and advanced on Ford Proctor's single through the right side. Dane Myers followed with a rocket line-drive near the left field line, but Middle Tennessee third baseman Drew Huff made a sensational leaping catch to snare the ball. The threat was avoided as both runners were left stranded.
After two hits in the top of the first inning, Rice only had one more hit the rest of the way. Senior Ryan Lewis collected a two-out single to left in the fifth to finish with a 1-for-3 night, but it's the near-miss that sometimes resonates more with hitters. Down just 1-0 to start the top of the eighth, Lewis turned on a pitch and sent a shot down the left field line. Middle Tennessee leftfielder Blake Benefield had to sprint all the way to the 330 mark at the corner, but leapt and made the catch for the out.
It was that kind or night. With the wind blowing-in four other Rice players all joined Lewis in having long outs recorded well onto the warning track. The Owls also stranded two runners on base in the fifth, but Blue Raider starting pitcher Nate Hoffman pitched a complete game three-hitter. He walked three and struck out six.
Rice starter Jon Duplantier was also solid in his 7.1 innings of work. The right-hander allowed two earned runs on five singles and two walks while striking out 11. Duplantier has now reached double-digit strikeouts in three starts this season. Good news on the offensive front was Tristan Gray making his return to action. The sophomore slugger from Houston started in left field after being sidelined for more than a month.
The Owls are now 15-10 on the season and 5-2 in C-USA league play. Middle Tennessee improved to 13-13 overall and 2-5 in conference.
The C-USA weekend series continues through Sunday (April 3). Saturday's contest is scheduled for a 4 pm first pitch. Sunday's series finale begins at 1 pm.