April 27, 2014
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Rice baseball team collected double-digit hits and was able to score in six different innings, but Southern Miss claimed an 8-6 win over the visiting Owls in the finale of the Conference USA weekend series Sunday afternoon in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Rice won the series two games to one and is now 31-15 on the season. Taking two on the road was critical as the Owls remained in first place in the conference standings with an 18-6 ledger. Southern Miss improved to 26-19 overall and 14-7 in league play.
Southern Miss was able to get on the scoreboard with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. Tim Lynch was hit by a pitch and Matt Durst and Mason Robbins followed with consecutive singles for a 1-0 advantage.
The Owls answered with a tying run in the top of the second. Chase McDowell lined a base hit that landed in right field and consecutive walks to Shane Hoelscher and Connor Teykl loaded the stations. McDowell came home on Michael Aquino's sacrifice fly to right field that made it 1-1.
The Golden Eagles were again a little wild in the third inning which the Owls opportunistically turned into a run. Keenan Cook was hit by a pitch to lead it off. He went to second on Charlie Warren's sacrifice bunt and to third on a single by John Clay Reeves. Cook dashed home on a USM wild pitch for the lead at 2-1.
The Blue & Gray added a third run in the fourth. Aquino reached on a USM fielding error and moved to scoring position on a fielder's choice. He sprinted home on Cook's two-out single to right for a 3-1 advantage.
The Golden Eagles came right back and tied the game in the bottom of the fourth. Rice issued three free passes before Lynch delivered a two-out, bases-loaded single for a 3-3 score.
Reeves led off the top of the fifth with a towering home run to left. His fourth round-tripper of the season was Rice's fourth-straight inning with a single run to make it 4-3.
A longball delivered USM's biggest inning of the weekend in the sixth. The Golden Eagles strung together three-straight hits to leadoff the frame and a hit batter forced-in one run to tie the score, 4-4. Durst then connected on a pitch for a grand slam that doubled the margin, 8-4.
Rice continued to fight and scored single runs in the seventh and eighth. Hoelscher hustled to drive in a run on a fielder's choice. In the eighth Aquino went deep with a solo homer that put Rice back within two, 8-6.
The Blue & Gray had one final chance in the top of the ninth putting two men on base, USM worked out of the jam to hold on for the 8-6 final. The Owls successfully put the leadoff man on base a total of five times in the game and manufactured runs in six of nine innings - all of the single digit variety. The trio of Hoelscher, Reeves and McDowell all had two hits.
Even in coming up just short of the possible sweep Rice now has its most C-USA league wins since 2008 (21). The team's overall total of 31 wins heading into the finals break is the squad's most since winning 34 in that same 2008 season.
Rice has wrapped-up the tough test of a weekend road swing. The Owls next get a break in the playing schedule while the University enters its quiet period prior to the upcoming final exams of the spring semester. The baseball team returns to the diamond with a home game against crosstown foe Houston Baptist on May 7. First pitch against the Huskies is set 6:30 pm at Reckling Park.