May 11, 2010
By MOISEKAPENDA BOWER
STILLWATER, OKLA. - It had been a long while since No. 24 Rice was on the wrong end of an offensive eruption, with the Owls' five losses since April 1 coming by a grand total of 11 runs, including three by one run.
The odds suggested that a poor pitching performance was bound to happen. That it occurred on Tuesday night constituted horrid timing.
Clinging to slim hopes that they might host an NCAA Tournament regional, the Owls had those aspirations pushed to the brink of nullification with a 12-5 loss to Oklahoma State at Reynolds Stadium.
Three Rice pitchers surrendered multi-run home runs, effectively negating the solo blasts struck by Owls third baseman Anthony Rendon and designated hitter Jeremy Rathjen in the fourth inning. After the Owls (30-18) clawed to within three runs with their two-run eighth, the Cowboys (28-20) did what they had all evening - they one-upped Rice.
Cowboys second baseman Davis Duren capped the slugfest with a grand slam off Owls closer Tyler Duffey, putting a bow on a long night in which righthanders J.T. Chargois and Mark Haynes also surrendered homers.
"They're not making good pitches," Rice coach Wayne Graham said, blanketing several members of his bullpen. "It's not about the other team hitting great, it's they're not making good pitches. We're looking (for reliable relievers)."
Chargois (2-1) earned the victory in his first career start last Wednesday against Texas Southern, but in his second opportunity to make an impression on a coaching staff seeking solutions Chargois got in trouble almost immediately. Four of the first five batters he faced reached base including Cowboys right fielder Luis Uribe, whose two-run homer to left field put the Owls in a 3-0 hole four batters into the game.
Oklahoma State tacked on two runs against Doug Simmons in the second and, after Haynes had handcuffed them for an inning-plus in relief of Simmons, the Cowboys struck for three runs in the fourth when third baseman Mark Ginther cranked a three-run shot, also to left field.
The Ginther blast came on the heels of Rendon and Rathjen going deep in the top of the fourth, and after Diego Seastrunk and Michael Ratterree breathed life into the Rice offense with RBI hits in the eighth, Duren quickly shifted momentum back to the Cowboys with his homer to right-center. The Cowboys' third homer pushed them into double digits, marking the first time Rice allowed at least 10 runs since March 13.
"Basically you've got reliability from (junior lefthander Abel) Gonzales and you've got three starters. The rest of it you're just guessing," Graham said of his bullpen options. "You try to make an educated guess, and right now we feel like (junior righthander) Boogie (Anagnostou) would be as good an educated guess as we can make."
Defensively the Owls were sharp, turning a trio of double plays to support Chargois and freshman lefthander Holt McNair, who pitched three scoreless innings while bridging the gap between Haynes and Duffey. The offense was sporadic, chasing Oklahoma State southpaw Thomas Keeling in the fourth before scuffling against righthander Ian McCarthy (2-1), who entered the game with a bloated ERA of 8.86.
With Michael Fuda and Ratterree on base and one out in the fourth, McCarthy got Owls center fielder Steven Sultzbaugh to hit a blistering line drive to Duren at second. Rice right fielder Chad Mozingo followed with a towering shot to center, but Dusty Harvard settled underneath the ball to record the final out and begin a stretch where McCarthy allowed just two base runners over the ensuing three innings. He finally began to stumble in the eighth, but he rallied to retire Sultzbaugh with Fuda and Ratterree on first and second to silence Rice once and for all.
The loss prevented the Owls from evening their overall road record. Rice has played a whopping 24 road contests, and at 11-13 perhaps the Owls showed signs of travel fatigue after a weekend in West Virginia.
"It's going to wear you down, but you can't always want to play a home game in front of your home crowd," said Rendon, whose home run was his 18th this season. "It's all about coming out here and playing a game."