April 22, 2006
HOUSTON -- Junior third baseman Josh Rodriguez went 3-for-4 and sophomore pitcher Bobby Bell notched his fifth win of the season without a loss as the number one ranked Rice baseball team scored five unanswered runs on the way to a 5-1 victory over 24th-ranked Southern Miss in the second of a three-game Conference USA weekend series Saturday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Rice (34-9 overall and 13-1 in C-USA) won its 13th-straight league game to stay in sole possession of first place in the conference standings. The Owls also clinched their 30th-straight regular season three-game series at home and 23rd-consecutive home conference series dating back to 2001.
Southern Miss opened the scoring with a run in the top of the third inning. Jody Blunt led off with a base hit to center and he took second on Brian Dozier's bunt single. Blount moved to third on fly out and scored on an RBI single to right by Todric Johnson.
With men on first and third and one-away, the Golden Eagles were looking for more in the inning but Bell worked out of the jam with a double-play ball. It was the only score he and reliever Cole St.Clair would allow on the day as the Owls' offense responded with five unanswered runs.
Senior Greg Buchanan led off the fourth with a walk and he moved into scoring position with Rodriguez' second hit of the day, a one-out single to right. Buchanan advanced to third on a liner to the outfield and Rodriguez followed by stealing the now open second base. Freshman Aaron Luna laced a two-out double to right to bring both runners home and the Owls took the lead, 2-1.
Rice sent eight men to the plate for three runs in the seventh. Designated hitter Adam Zornes led off with a walk and a single by Danny Lehmann and double by Tyler Henley made the score 3-1. The Owls opportunistically added two more insurance runs to stretch the lead to 5-1. A wild pitch on a strikeout scored Lehmann from third and a one-out bunt single by Brian Friday brought Henley home.
When Bell left with the lead in the seventh, the standout from Aledo had scattered six hits and a pair of walks while striking out six. St.Clair held USM scoreless for the final 2.1 innings and struck out three to earn his team-leading seventh save of the season.
Rice improved to 34-9 overall. Southern Miss fell to 27-14 on the year and 5-6 in conference. The final game of the weekend series is slated for 1 pm Sunday at Reckling Park.
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