April 3, 2007
HOUSTON -- Junior left fielder Jordan Dodson delivered the game-winning hit with one out in the bottom of the ninth-inning to cap a late two-run rally and propel the eighth-ranked Rice baseball team to a 5-4 victory over upset-minded Prairie View Tuesday evening at Reckling Park in Houston.
Dodson's ninth inning game-winner was on the heals of an emotional boost in the top of the eighth inning when junior reliever Cole St.Clair made his long-awaited debut for the 2007 season. The left-hander fired a solid shutout inning that halted the first Prairie View rally after the Panthers cut the Rice lead to a single run, 3-2. St.Clair entered the game with one run already in, a man in scoring position and nobody out. The consensus preseason all-America selection got a fly out, which was enough to advance the runner to third, and he hit the next batter. With men on the corners, St.Clair quickly made up for the hit batsman by picking the runner off first base. He then batted down a line-shot back to the mound, which he managed to corral and flip to first to end the inning.
It was St.Clair's first Rice outing since a start at the 2006 College World Series in Omaha. He faced three PVAM batters and he successfully held the Panther rally in check. It was his only work of the night and when the Owls changed pitchers to start the ninth, the Prairie View jumped on the scoreboard for a pair of runs on two doubles, a walk and sacrifice bunt to take the lead, 4-3.
Rice came right back in the bottom of the ninth with a dramatic rally of its own. Juniors Tyler Henley and Danny Lehmann both led off with a walks, and the Owls elected to pinch-run for Lehmann at first with Derek Myers. Junior Brian Friday delivered a picture perfect bunt for a base hit and the Blue & Gray was in business with the bases loaded and nobody out. Henley tied the game by scoring on Chad Lembeck's RBI sacrifice fly to right field and Myers advanced to third on the play. Dodson followed with the game-winning single to the gap in left-center to score Myers and complete the rally for a 5-4 victory.
It was the second time on the night that Rice had to overcome a Prairie View Lead. The Panthers scored the first run of the game in the top of the third for a 1-0 advantage. In the bottom of the fourth sophomore Aaron Luna led off with a single to left and second baseman Jess Buenger followed with a home run over the left field wall. Buenger's fourth round-tripper of the season put the Owls ahead 2-1.
In the sixth Rice stretched the margin to 3-1. Luna led off with a base hit through the right side and stole second to move into scoring position. He advanced to third on a ground out to the right side and scored on a Diego Seastrunk's sacrifice fly.
Rice starting pitcher Chris Kelley held a .327-hitting Panther team that had averaged eight runs per game to just one run on five hits through the seventh inning. The 7.0 frames was the longest outing of his Rice career and Reckling Park crowd of 2,305 gave him a roar of applause as he left the game in the eighth. Senior right-hander Ryne Tacker was the winning pitcher and improved to 5-1 after halting PVAM's ninth inning outburst.
Rice is now 23-10 on the season. Prairie View dropped to 22-11 overall and saw its win streak snapped at six games. The teams entered the contest with identical 22-10 records. Their previous meeting was also a dramatic one-run Rice win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament one year ago.
With four-straight wins to close out a four-game homestand, the Owls begin a streak of seven-consecutive road games. Rice next meets Conference USA rival East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., in a three-game weekend series Apr. 6-8. Game times with the Pirates are set for 6 pm, 5 pm and 11 am, respectively. All start times listed are Central time.