April 11, 2006
WACO -- Junior all-America candidate Josh Rodriguez helped extend the Rice baseball team's win streak to 11 games by blasting a three-run homer in the ninth inning to lift the second-ranked Owls to a 6-4 come-from behind win over 24th-ranked Baylor before a rowdy crowd of 3,443 at the Baylor Ballpark Tuesday night in Waco, the second-largest midweek attended game in the stadium's history.
Trailing by a run entering the ninth, the Owls rallied for three in their last at bat to extend the team's current win streak to 11 games. The big blow was a homer to centerfield by Rodriguez, a preseason all-America selection. Sophomore Tyler Henley reached on a fielding error to lead off the inning and he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Greg Buchanan. With first open the Bears elected to intentionally walk sophomore Joe Savery and set up a potential double-play situation on Rodriguez. The standout from Houston responded by driving a 1-2 pitch to the right of the batter's screen for his fourth homer of the year.
It was the Owls' first lead of the game after the Bears put up three early unearned runs on two doubles and a Rice fielding error in the bottom of the second inning. Kevin Russo led off by punching a ball through the left side. When sophomore shortstop Brian Friday dove to make a play on the ball, it deflected away slightly and Russo opportunistically took second base for a double. A hit batsman put runners on first and second and the Bears attempted to move them up with a sacrifice. The Owls were ready for the bunt and attempted to get the lead runner, but an errant throw came in low and handcuffed Josh Rodriguez at third on a close play. Baylor pitcher/designated hitter Jeff Mandel grounded out to the right side to score the first run of the game. Chase Gerdes doubled to score two more for an early 3-0 lead.
The Owls were able to get runs back in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Friday led off with a walk and stole second to move into scoring position. It looked like he might be stranded there but freshman designated hitter Aaron Luna turned a fly ball that landed between three Bears in right field into a double. Friday was already moving on contact and was able to score easily to cut the margin to 3-1.
Buchanan started off the sixth by bunting for a base hit. After a pair of fly outs, a Baylor fielding error on Jordan Dodson's at bat allowed Buchanan to take third with Dodson moving to second. Friday followed with a base hit up the middle to score Buchanan and make the score 3-2.
Baylor answered with a run in the bottom of the frame. Second baseman Ben Booker slugged his first home run of the season with two out to right field and the Bears were back up by two, 4-2.
Rice came right back with run in the seventh. Henley drew a two-out walk and he moved to second base on a wild pitch. Buchanan beat out a throw for an infield hit and Henley advanced to third. Savery singled to drive home Henley for a 4-3 score.
The Owls threatened for the tying a run in the eighth after a pair of hits, but the Bears worked out of the jam. Rice junior right-handed pitcher Craig Crow entered the game in the eighth and went on to earn his fourth win of the season after the ninth inning rally. He worked two scoreless frames without allowing a hit and striking out two. Reliever Bobby Bramhall was also sharp for the Owls, holding Baylor to one hit in 3.1 innings with two strikeouts.
The Owls collected 12 hits to improve to 29-8 on the season. Eleven wins in a row ties the team's longest win streak of the last two years. Baylor fell to 22-12 on the year.
The Rice road swing continues through the weekend. The Owls next face C-USA foe Memphis in a three-game weekend series in Tennessee. Start times against the Tigers are 6 pm Friday, 2 pm Saturday and noon on Sunday.