April 13, 2012
The first 7.0 innings of the contest were a sharp contrast to the to the score's final nine-run margin. The first 7.0 innings featured a classic duel between the starting pitchers locked in a narrow 1-0 game.
Rice senior Matthew Reckling fired 6.2 shutout innings to hold the nail-biting one-run lead over Marshall sophomore Aaron Blair. Reckling scattered four singles and two walks while striking out seven. Blair allowed one run on five hits and three walks while striking out seven.
"The final score will make it look like a different game than what it was most of the day," Wayne Graham said. "We needed Matthew to have a good outing because there was no score, and then just one run, for a long time. We need our hitters to help us earlier (in games). We may have got there in the end, but we can do better and we can help ourselves with more hitting early."
Marshall was close to gaining the upper-hand early. The Thundering Herd loaded the bases in the bottom of the third after a hit-batsman, a single and a walk. Reckling worked out of the jam with an inning-ending strikeout.
Rice opened the scoring in the top of the fifth. With one away Michael Ratterree was hit by a pitch and Christian Stringer lined a single into right-center field. J.T. Chargois slapped a two-out single up the middle to score Ratterree for the 1-0 lead.
Both bullpens were in action when Rice added an insurance run in the eighth. Rathjen was hit by a pitch to lead it off and he hustled into scoring position on a Marshall passed ball. He dashed home on Chargois' double to shallow left field to double the lead to two runs, 2-0. Adding the second score late in a game when runs appeared to be at a premium was big, but the Owls could not yet afford to relax.
In the bottom of the eighth Marshall put runners on first and third before the Owls could work out of danger with Taylor Wall getting a groundout. In the seventh the Thundering Herd had men on first and second before Tyler Duffey ended the threat with a fly ball to right.
It was still a rather tight 2-0 game when the Owls exploded for seven runs in the ninth. The Blue & Gray came alive for five base hits, surpassing the four hits the team had collected before the inning started. Marshall also made three different fielding errors in the ninth as Rice went on to send a total of 11 men to the plate.
With a comfortable 9-0 lead to start the bottom of the ninth, reliever John Simms retired the Thundering Herd three-up, three-down. In all, four Owl pitchers combined for the staff's fifth shutout of the season. Three of shutouts have been in C-USA road games (Memphis, Tulane and Marshall) while two others were against teams who played in NCAA Regionals last season (Stanford and Dallas Baptist).
Reckling improved his individual record to 6-0 this season. Reckling was more pleased with how he was able to adapt rather than his outing as a whole. He stated his job is, like the part of the game that was the 1-0 pitcher's duel, to keep the team in the game.
"I wasn't as good early as later (in the game), so I had to make a few adjustments on the fly," Reckling said. "My stuff got better late. You assess what you're doing wrong and try and make adjustments from there. Even when you don't have your best stuff, you still have to be a pitcher. You still have to stay in games when you don't have your best stuff."
On the offensive side Chargois finished the day with a season-high three hits to go along with two RBI. Eight Owls had at least one hit and seven in the starting lineup scored a run.
Rice improved to 25-11 on the season and 7-3 in Conference USA play. Marshall moved to 13-20 overall and 1-6 against the league. The three-game weekend series continues through Sunday. Saturday's start time is set for 1:05 pm Central Time. Sunday's series finale is slated for a 9:05 am first pitch.