May 10, 2013
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HOUSTON - The Memphis baseball team posted a big five-run sixth inning to claim a 6-3 Conference USA win over the Rice Owls in the opener of a three-game weekend league series Friday evening at Reckling Park in Houston.
After a scoreless duel through the first five frames where both teams had combined for just three hits, Memphis exploded for a five-run sixth. The Tigers collected four singles and took advantage of two walks and passed ball for a 5-0 lead. Memphis stretched the margin to 6-0 with another run in the seventh which was unearned after a walk and Owl fielding error.
Credit Tiger starting pitcher Sam Molll with a solid effort on the mound. The left-hander allowed just three hits while striking out seven in 7.2 frames before UM went to its bullpen.
Rice would not go away without a fight, however, and rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth. Ford Stainback punched a single through the right side and Michael Ratterree drew a two-out walk. Junior designated hitter Michael Aquino followed with long blast that cleared the wall in left-center field cut the margin in half, 6-3.
The Owls tried one last rally in the bottom of the ninth by getting a runner on base and bringing the tying run to the on-deck circle. Memphis closed the door for a 6-3 final that snapped Rice's three-game win streak.
Rice head coach Wayne Graham stayed positive. The damage Friday night was all from one inning, and the team has already shown this season it can bounce back from a loss in the opener of a series. The Blue & Gray has won three C-USA series after dropping game one of the set on Friday night.
"Obviously I thought their starter pitched extremely well and we just gave away too much in a tough game," said coach Graham. "We allowed four walks, and they had five hits, in the first five innings. That's too much in an important game. Any problems we've had lately can be traced to base-on-balls.
"We've been in this situation before (losing the opening game of a series)," he added. "We have to be ready and play better. There isn't any question about that."
The Owls are now 32-16 on the season and 11-8 in C-USA action. Memphis improved to 31-19 overall and 13-9 in the league.The C-USA series continues through Sunday. Start time Saturday is set for 2 pm. The Sunday series finale is 1 pm.