Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (email@example.com)
MURFREESBORO, TENN. – The Rice and Middle Tennessee baseball teams finished the final game of a C-USA weekend series in a 5-5 tie Sunday afternoon on the road in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Due Rice’s travel schedule it was determined before the start of the game that no new inning would begin after 4:30 pm. The teams completed nine full innings at close to 5 pm for the 5-5 final. With its first tie in a game since the 1958 season, Rice is now 16-21-1 on the year and 6-8-1 in C-USA action. Middle Tennessee is 19-17-1 overall and 6-8-1 in conference. Both teams were looking to join the three-way tie for sixth place in the C-USA standings, but duo is now deadlocked for ninth after Sunday’s stalemate closed out the three-game series 1-1-1.
Rice had trailed midway through the contest, but rallied to regain the lead in the seventh. Braden Comeaux and Trei Cruz laced back-to-back one-out singles and Chace Sarchet was hit by a pitch to load the stations. Andrew Dunlap followed with a single in to left-center to drive in two and tie the score, 4-4. The Owls still had runners at the corners are were not quite finished. Freshman Justin Collins executed a textbook safety squeeze as Charchet dashed home to take the lead, 5-4.
Middle Tennessee would not go so quietly at home, however, and rallied for the tying run in the bottom of the eighth. The Owls then held-off a final Blue Raider rally in the ninth knowing there would not be a tenth as there was in Friday’s second game of the double-header.
Rice opened the scoring in the top of the second inning by taking advantage of a leadoff walk to Cruz. A one-out walk to Dunlap and shallow single by Justin Collins loaded the bases. Cruz touched home plate on a sacrifice fly by Bradley Gneiting for a 1-0 Owl lead.
Middle Tennessee tied the score in the bottom of third. The Blue Raiders strung together three singles with team RBI leader Aaron Aucker driving-in Kevin Sullivan to make it 1-1.
The Owls bounced back to take the lead 2-1 as Dominic Cox walked scored from third base on a wild pitch in the fourth. The Blue & Gray could have helped itself more by capitalizing on ‘free’ baserunners in the early in the contest. Rice drew nine walks and left a total of eight men on base in the first four frames alone.
Middle Tennessee scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth inning which proved costly. The Owls appeared to be getting out of harm’s way in the fifth, but the tying run came home on a throwing error that would have been the third out of the inning. With the extended life at the plate, the Blue Raiders ended up scoring the go-head run on a passed ball for their first lead of the day at 3-2. Middle Tennessee added an insurance run on three hits in the sixth to make it 4-2.
The Owls next begin a long seven-game homestand that lasts until May 2. Rice hosts league foe Florida Atlantic for a three-game weekend series April 20-22. Rice then welcomes Charlotte for a conference series April 27-29 (with no midweek games scheduled for either of the next two weeks).