May 6, 2012
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HOUSTON -- Seven Owls combined for 12 hits to pace the No. 6 ranked Rice baseball team to an 8-2 Conference USA victory over crosstown rival Houston in the final game of the C-USA weekend series Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Rice claimed the weekend series with the Cougars two-games-to-one, and the season-long set between the crosstown foes 3-1 to retain the coveted Silver Glove Trophy for the 12th year in a row. Like the big rivalries in college football, the city of Houston's top two college baseball programs play for an annual trophy (the Silver Glove) as part of their annual series. Rice has won 14 of the 15 series with Houston since play for The Glove began in 1998.
The Owls went right to work Sunday to leave no doubt the Silver Glove would be staying on South Main. In the bottom of the first inning the Blue & Gray loaded the bases on a pair of hits and a walk. Junior outfielder Michael Ratteree delivered a two-out RBI single deep in the hole at shortstop for a 1-0 lead.
Houston came right back for a run in the top of the second. Jonathan Davis drew a leadoff walk and scored on a two-out single by Price Jacobs.
Rice quickly returned serve with a two-out rally in the bottom of the frame. Ford Stainback singled to left and advanced to second base on a throwing error from a failed pick-off attempt. Christian Stringer drove him home with a base hit to make it 2-1.
The Cougars tied the game 2-2 in the top of the fourth. Davis again drew a leadoff walk and moved to scoring position on John Cannon's sacrifice bunt. Davis went to third on a Rice wild pitch and scored on an RBI sac bunt by Zack Gibson.
The Owls took the lead for good with two runs in their half of the fourth. Stringer led off with a single and alertly hustled for an extra station on a UH fielding error in the outfield. Stringer was in scoring position, but it turns out he didn't need the extra base. Jeremy Rathjen blasted a two-run home run to left for a 4-2 Owl advantage. The long-ball was Rathjen's ninth of the season and the 24th of his collegiate career.
Rathjen then added his third RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth. He helped give Rice a 5-2 lead heading into the top of the sixth where Houston attempted one more rally. The Cougars had two men in scoring position with two away in the top of the sixth, but Rice made a move to the bullpen for reliever Tyler Duffey. The junior right-hander ended the UH threat on four pitches with a dramatic strikeout.
Rice delivered the knockout punch with three more insurance runs in the seventh to make the score 8-2. The big blow was a two-out double to left by Ryan Lewis to score two runs. Lewis then scored on an RBI single by Michael Fuda.
Duffey continued to hold Houston in check the rest of the way. He finished with 3.1 scoreless innings of starter John Simms, allowing just two singles and two walks while striking out three. Duffey earned his fourth save of the season and was named to the annual All-Silver Glove Series team.
"Duffey's got heart," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "He's a true competitor."
"I think we looked better today and hopefully we will continue to look better and continue to hit better with runners in scoring position," coach Graham added.
Rice was well-represented on the all-series team, including versatile junior J.T. Chargois as the Most Outstanding Player. Not only did Chargois hit .375 and lead all series players with six hits, as well as four RBI and a .474 on-base percentage, he also pitched 3.0 innings where allowed just three hits while striking out five.
Other 2012 all-series honorees included: C-John Cannon (UH), INF-Landon Appling (UH), Christian Stringer (Rice), Ford Stainback (Rice), Shane Hoelscher (Rice), OF-Michael Pyeatt (UH), Michael Ratterree (Rice), Jeremy Rathjen (Rice), P- Jordan Lewis (UH), John Simms (Rice), Andrew Benak (Rice), Wild Card (tie)- Austin Pruitt (UH) and Tyler Duffey (Rice).
Rice improved to 33-13 overall and 13-5 in league play. For their efforts the Blue * Gray gained a share of first place in the C-USA standings with UCF.
"We've been starting slow this week, but we finished well." Ratterree said. "We're not in bad shape."
The Owls continue the current homestand with four more games next week. Rice next hosts state-foe Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday (May 8) at Reckling Park. The game against the Lumberjacks begins at 6 pm to accommodate a television broadcast by Comcast Sports Southwest.