Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HOUSTON – The Rice baseball team scored four early runs and the Owl pitching duo of Willy Amador and Glenn Otto made the margin stand up with a 4-0 shutout Conference USA victory over visiting Middle Tennessee Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park in Houston.
With the win Rice is now 24-28 on the season and 14-13 in C-USA action. The Owls are in seventh place in the conference standings as games finished on Sunday. The team is only one game back of a tie for fifth place, and two back of a tie for third place, as regular season C-USA play concludes next week with the final three league games. Middle Tennessee is 22-29 overall and 8-19 in conference.
The Blue Raiders worked out of danger in the bottom of the first inning as Rice left the base-loaded, but the Owls broke through for a pair of runs in both the second and the third frames. Back-to-back singles to start the second quickly put two on base. Sophomore shortstop Ford Proctor delivered a big two-out double to left-center to score junior Ryan Chandler and senior Charlie Warren for a 2-0 advantage.
Rice was back on the offensive in the third. Dominic DiCaprio led off with a single to left and consecutive two-out walks by Andrew Dunlap and Chandler loaded the stations. Warren, who was one of the Owls honored on the field in a special pregame ceremony for the Rice seniors in their final home weekend appearance, came up with a tricky but well-placed base hit into shallow right-center field. With two away the Owls were already in motion around the bases, and both DiCaprio and Dunlap touched home to double the margin to 4-0.
As one of the best-hitting teams in Conference USA the Blue Raiders battled all game long. Middle Tennessee put runners in scoring position in four of the first six frames, and also had a runner on base one other time in the fifth. Righthander Willy Amador allowed a total of seven singles in 5.2 innings of work, but worked his way out of trouble with four key strikeouts.
Glenn Otto relieved Amador in the sixth and got a clutch fly out to leave the bases-loaded. The Blue Raiders attempted one last rally in the top of the ninth loading the bases with two hits and a walk. Otto ended the threat, and the game, with his fifth strikeout. The junior from Spring, Texas, notched his seventh save with 3.1 shutout innings. Amador improved to 3-4 on the mound this season.
The three-game weekend series has concluded, but the Owls’ four-game homestand lasts May 16. Rice hosts longtime foe Texas State on Tuesday night at Reckling Park. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 pm.