April 17, 2009
HOUSTON -- Rice freshman left-hander Taylor Wall scattered five hits and a walk while striking out eight in 6.2 innings to help lift the Owls' baseball team to a 7-5 Conference USA victory over visiting Marshall in the opening game of a three-game league series Friday night at Reckling Park in Houston. With the win, and an East Carolina loss at Tulane on Friday night, the Owls moved into sole possession of first place in the C-USA standings.
Wall kept the Thundering Herd hitless for the first four innings while his teammates built an early lead. In the second inning, Diego Seastrunk drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a base hit by Jimmy Comerota. Both runners advanced on Craig Manuel's sacrifice bunt. Seastrunk scored easily from third base on a wild pitch.
The Owls batted around for a four-run third. Two walks and a hit loaded the bases for Seastrunk. The junior from Channelview, Tex., drew another free pass to force in one run. With the bases still loaded and two away, Manuel then stroked single to right field to plate two more. Freshman Ryan Lewis made it 5-0 with an RBI single into right field.
The Blue & Gray stretched the margin to 6-0 in the fifth. Anthony Rendon was hit by a pitch and hustled to third on a single up the middle by Seastrunk. Rendon scored on a sacrifice fly by Comerota and the Owls were coasting with six runs through the first five innings of play.
Marshall would not go away so easy. The Thundering Herd rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh on three hits, a walk and an Owl fielding error. The big blow was a two-out, two-run double by Brandon Casamassima. The final run of the frame was unearned off Wall. The freshman left-hander from Westside High School had done his job and kept the Marshall offense in check until the late stages of a cold and rainy night. Rice senior reliever Jordan Rogers entered the game and got the Owls out of the jam with a pop-up.
The Herd posted two more runs in the top of the eighth behind a home run by Victor Gomez. His 12th homer of the year cur the margin to a single run, 6-5. Rice rallied for a final score in the bottom of the eighth. Michael Fuda singled to right-center, took second on Steven Sultzbaugh's sacrifice bunt, then dashed to third when he alertly saw no one was covering the base. He scored on a throwing error on the same play for a 7-5 margin.
Rogers struck out the leadoff batter in the ninth. The Owls turned a strikeout-caught stealing double-play to end the game. Rogers struck out five in 2.1 innings of work to earn his seventh save of the season. Wall earned his fifth win to share the staff lead.
Rice improved to 26-9 overall and 10-3 in conference play. The Owls moved into sole possession of first place in the C-USA standings with Tulane's 7-4 win over East Carolina. Marshall is now 15-21 on the season and 5-8 in C-USA. The league series continues at Reckling Park through Sunday (April 19). Remaining game times are set for 2 pm on Saturday and 12 Noon on Sunday.