May 5, 2012
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HOUSTON -- The Rice baseball team rallied from behind to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, and then overcame another deficit again in the tenth, on the way to a 4-3 Conference USA victory over crosstown rival Houston in the second game of a C-USA weekend series Saturday afternoon at the Owls' Reckling Park.
Rice evened the weekend series between the city-foes 1-1 heading into Sunday's series finale. Trailing 3-2 to start the bottom of the tenth, the Owls capped a wild final frame with a pair of runs on two hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly by Jeremy Rathjen to score Christian Stringer.
Chase McDowell started the tenth with a leadoff walk and Stringer followed with a bounding base hit into right that put runners on first and third. J.T. Chargois then slapped a hard base hit into right to tie the game, 3-3, while keeping an identical offensive threat of men on the corners. Houston elected to intentionally walk Michael Ratterree to load the bases to set up a force at home. Stringer sprinted home for the victory on Rathjen's sac fly to center.
Rice head coach Wayne Graham had an option to having Stringer simply sacrifice-bunt McDowell into scoring position. The head coach was ready to see his Owls do some hitting.
"We rolled the dice a little letting Stringer hit," Coach Graham said. "That was the game-breaker right there, when he hit the ball into right field. Stringer's a good hitter and I knew he could pull ball the ball to right field."
The hit gave the Blue & Gray some momentum that was hard to come by early in the contest. Houston starting pitcher Jordan Lewis had scattered only two hits, a walk and a hit batter while striking out six over the first seven innings. He had a 2-0 advantage heading into the bottom of the eighth after Rice fielding errors paved the way to single runs in the fourth and eighth.
The Owls meanwhile needed some solid middle relief work and senior Taylor Wall delivered. The Houston left-hander allowed only one hit and a walk while striking out three in 4.1 innings.
Rice took advantage of a Cougar fielding error for its first run of the game in the bottom of the eighth. After a leadoff walk and fielder's choice put made it one-on and one-away, freshman Skyler Ewing reached on a pinch-hit infield single. A UH error on the play, however, allowed both runners to advance to scoring position. Stringer drove-in Rice pinch-runner Daniel Gonzales-Luna with a sacrifice fly to cut the Houston lead to 2-1.
The Owls rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. Ratterree reached on a Cougar fielding error to lead off the inning and he moved into scoring position on a sac bunt by Rathjen. Ratterree went to third on a Houston wild pitch and hustled home with the tying run on a safety squeeze bunt by Michael Fuda.
Houston fought back with a run in the top of the tenth to regain the lead. Jonathan Davis led off with a double to left field and he scored on Jake Runte's one-out pinch hit single through the right side.
The Cougars were still looking for more runs but the versatile Chargois, who works as a designated hitter and late-inning reliever, ended the threat with a pair of strikeouts. The Sulphur, La., standout's busy day included a win in relief with 2.1 innings on the mound where he struck out four. He helped his own cause on the mound with the game-tying base hit in the tenth.
"I knew it was a big spot (batting in the tenth)," Chargois said. "I like to be in those situations. I think that may be when I see the ball the best actually, when it's a situation like today. Hitting and pitching in the same game is fine with me. I really like it when I can get an at-bat between innings that I am pitching. It keeps me warm and loose."
Rice warmed its season record up to 32-13 overall and 12-5 in C-USA league play. Houston fell to 16-27-1 on the season and 4-12-1 in conference. The weekend series vs. UH concludes Sunday at 1:05 pm. The game that will be televised by Comcast Sports Southwest.