May 16, 2006
METAIRIE, La. -- Sophomore Tyler Henley went 2-for-4 with a three-run home run and sophomore Brian Friday extended a team-best hitting streak to 17 games with a dramatic game-winning single in the ninth inning as the number one ranked Rice baseball team rallied for a 6-3 win over LSU in the annual Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation Classic, held Tuesday evening at Zephyr Field in Metairie, La.
LSU scored three runs in the third and used some steady pitching to hold Rice to just four hits in the first six innings. Henley tied the game in the seventh with a three-run homer and the Owls put three more on the scoreboard in their final at bat. It was the third time in as many games the Blue and Gray fell behind early in the contest only to charge back for a win. Over the weekend Rice was down 3-0 to Houston on Saturday and 3-2 on Sunday before claiming a pair of wins 7-4 and 13-3.
The Tigers took a try at holding the lead with runs in bottom of the third inning. Catcher Robert Lara started it off with a hit to left-center with the Owls' outfielders converged on a sprint. The ball deflected sharply off the top of the wall and bounced back into left field, away and behind leftfielder Aaron Luna as was charging in for a catch. Lara opportunistically turned the deflection into a triple and he scored when Bruce Sprowl followed with a single up the middle. Two batters later Quinn Stewart connected for a two-run homer, his 22nd of the season, to give LSU a 3-0 advantage.
The Owls had missed chances to score with the bases loaded in the second and two men on in the sixth. The team came alive in the top of the seventh. Luna led off with a single up the middle and freshman Kenny Ford punched a base hit through the gap on the right side to bring up the top of the order with no outs. Henley jumped on the first pitch and drove the ball over the wall in right field for his sixth home run of the season that tied the score, 3-3. Zephyr Field is a spacious minor league stadium and home to the Washington Nationals' AAA affiliate, but Henley has three of his six homers this season at the facility after a three-game sweep of Tulane last April.
In the top of the ninth sophomore designated hitter Derek Myers slapped a single into left and Henley doubled down the right field line to put two men in scoring position. The Owls failed to score on an infield ground out, but both men came home on Friday's clutch single up the middle to give Rice a 5-3 lead. Friday had moved to second base on the relay to the infield, and he advanced two stations on two wild pitches to make the score 6-3.
For all the high drama, credit the Owls' bullpen for quietly keeping the team in the game. LSU had three of their four hits in third inning and only one other hit after that. Rice went to the bullpen in the bottom of the fifth and effectively handcuffed the Tigers the rest of the game. Sophomore lefthander Bobby Bramhall fired 3.0 hitless innings and didn't allow a run while striking out three. He gave way to senior Bryce Cox, who was even tougher with four strikeouts in two hitless innings to close out the game. When the Rice bats rallied on his watch, he earned his second win of the season.
Rice improved to 43-10 on the season. LSU fell to 33-20 overall. The Owls have won 25 of their last 27 games heading into the final three games of the regular season. Rice next plays fellow C-USA newcomer Marshall in a three-game series May 18-20 in Charleston, WVa. Each of the three games at Appalachian Power Park will begin at 1 pm Central time.