April 20, 2012
Matthew Reckling posted a sensational one-hit complete game shutout to help pace the Owls to a hard-fought 2-0 victory over visiting East Carolina in the opening game of a Conference USA weekend series Friday evening at Reckling Park in Houston.
Earlier in the day the Owls had learned of the passing away of the mother of junior pitcher Tyler Duffey, Shanna Duffey of Houston. As one of the most popular and familiar of the Owls' team-moms cheering at Reckling Park, the program forged ahead Friday with a heavy heart.
"It was a tough day for everybody," said Rice coach Wayne Graham. "She was loved by everybody. She's one of the best parents we've ever had."
When the game finally began almost two hours and 20 minutes after its scheduled 6:30 pm start due to rain in the area, Rice was ready to be inspired.
The Owls quickly jumped on the scoreboard for a run in the bottom of the first inning. Christian Stringer led off with a base-hit up the middle and he moved into scoring position with a text book sacrifice bunt by Michael Fuda. Stringer dashed home on J.T. Chargois' base hit to center for the 1-0 advantage.
Rice added one more insurance run in the sixth. Junior Jeremy Rathjen connected on a pitch and drove it over the wall in straight-away centerfield. His eighth home run provided just a little more breathing room.
It was a narrow two-run margin, but that would be all Reckling would need on the night. The senior right-hander allowed just one base hit (in the top of the fifth) while striking out 10. He walked two and hit one batter. One of the walks and the hit batsman was in the in the top of the ninth to put two men on base for a dangerous situation. With one away the Pirates hit a sharp ground ball and the Owl defense responded with a big 4-6-3 double play to end the threat and the game.
"First and foremost our hearts and prayers go out to Tyler and the Duffey family," said Reckling. "Mrs. Duffey was such a special and extraordinary lady. She was so involved with us and the Rice community, and she always had a smile on her face. Tyler is our brother, so we're right behind him and the family.
"Our hearts go out to them and the game was for them," Reckling added. "The defense played a great game out there tonight. (Catcher) Craig (Manuel) and I were working well together tonight and we got some timely hitting."
Rice improved to 29-11 on the season and 10-3 in C-USA action with the team's seventh-straight win. No. 24 ranked East Carolina is now 26-12-1 overall and 8-4-1 against the league. The Pirates also had a standout pitching performance from senior Kevin Brandt. The left-hander also pitched a complete game while allowing the two runs on six hits.
The C-USA series continues through Sunday, April 21. Saturday's action gets under way at 2 pm. First pitch of the series finale is set for 11 am Central Time. The 11 am start is a change from some earlier listings.