Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- The Rice baseball team's ninth inning rally was just 90 feet away at third base as Southern Miss held on for a narrow 2-1 Conference USA win over the Owls Friday night in Hattiesburg, Miss.
The matchup of the two teams that came into the contest sharing first place in the league standings was nip and tuck. Five Southern Miss pitchers combined to hold Rice to a run on five hits as the Golden Eagles claimed sole possession of first place in the C-USA standings with a 13-3 league record. The Owls drop one game back into second place at 12-4 and 24-12 overall.
Rice fought to the end. Down 2-1 with one away in the top of the ninth inning, sophomore Tristan Gray blasted a pitch to the deepest corner of the stadium in right-center field. The ball careened off the wall and Gray, who on Monday was named the C-USA Hitter of the Week, dove safely into third base for his first triple of the season.
The Golden Eagles, however, avoided further damage to preserve the 2-1 final. USM improved to 28-11 overall.
Both teams finished the night with six hits. Rice was 1-for-8 when men were on base.
Southern Miss was quick to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning. Jake Sandlin and Tim Lynch hit back-to-back one-out doubles for a 1-0 lead. USM used a leadoff walk and passed ball to get an unearned run in the fourth when scoring would be at a premium.
Rice had only one hit through the first four frames when Connor Teykl and Andrew Dunlap laced consecutive doubles in the fifth to left to cut the margin to 2-1. The team's next best chance wasn't until the ninth.
Golden Eagle starter Cord Cockrell pitched 5.2 innings allowing a run on four hits and while striking out six. Four more USM pitchers combined to hold Rice scoreless the rest of the way.
Owl junior Jon Duplantier started and worked 7.0 innings. Only one of the two runs the right-hander allowed was earned. He surrendered four hits and three walks while striking out ten, the fourth time this season for Duplantier to post double-digit strikeouts in a game this season.
The weekend series continues through Sunday. Saturday's start time is set for 4 pm (a change from some earlier listings). Sunday's series finale is scheduled to begin at 1 pm.