Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
BILOXI, Miss -- The Rice baseball team scored four runs on just seven hits, but that was just enough room for junior pitcher Glenn Otto to hold off No. 2 seed Old Dominion for a tight 4-3 victory on Thursday's second day of action at the Conference USA Championship in Biloxi, Miss.
With a second-straight victory in as many days Rice advances in the winner's bracket. A bonus of the win is the Owls also earned an off day in the tournament and next play on Saturday (May 27). Rice now needs to win only one more time Saturday (over Old Dominion or Florida Atlantic) to advance to Sunday's Championship Final. The winner of Friday's ODU-FAU elimination game, however, would need to beat Rice twice on Saturday in order to progress to Sunday's single title game.
Otto proved tough to beat on Thursday.
At a pivotal point in the top of the sixth where the now 4-3 contest was dangerously close to swinging in Old Dominion's in favor, Otto came out of the bullpen with runners on second and third. The Spring, Texas, native not only worked out of that jam he proceeded to retire six in a row.
In the eighth, Old Dominion drew a walk and stole second base to get the tying run into scoring position. Otto ended that threat and then had a 1-2-3 ninth, including the last two Monarch batters by strikeout, to preserve the 4-3 final score.
After starting the season with a 13-25 record, Rice has battled back to post a 29-29 ledger. Old Dominion is 37-20 overall, but not yet done in the tournament.
The Monarchs put the first run on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning. Will Morgan led off with a double to right-center and hustled to third on a deep fly out to right. Morgan scored easily on Nick Walker's sacrifice fly for the 1-0 advantage.
ODU thought it had a chance to extend the margin on Vinnie Pasquantino's long fly ball to left with a runner on base in the top of the third. Rice outfielder Dayne Wunderlich, however, made a sensational catch above the top of the fence to rob what would have been a two-run homer.
The defensive gem not only saved potential runs, but it appeared to spark the Rice offense in the bottom of the frame. Charlie Warren led off by dropping a base hit into right and Ford Proctor was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. Dominic DiCaprio punched a RBI single through the left side and Proctor hustled to third, but an ODU fielding error on the play allowed DiCaprio an extra 90 feet into scoring position. Both runners advanced on Darryn Sheppard's RBI grounder to the right side. DiCaprio then came home on a wild pitch for a 3-1 Rice lead.
The Monarchs added a run fifth. Jared Young doubled to right field, Zack Rutherford walked and a fielder's choice ground out put runners at the corners. Both advanced on a balk to make it 3-2. ODU was looking for more, but Charlie Warren made a long bullet throw on a ball into right field to get the runner at the plate for the third out.
The Owls came right back with a run in the bottom of the inning. Dane Myers singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a base hit by Sheppard.
ODU answered in the sixth. Turner Bishop led off with a single and advanced as Kyle Battle was hit by a pitch. Bishop scored on a RBI single by Pasquantino that made it 4-3.
At that point Rice had had enough. Otto closed the door for the final 3.1innings. He did not allow any hits and struck out four to earn his fifth individual win on the season -- and after earning a save in Wednesday's 5-3 win over FAU.
The Owls' Saturday game vs. either ODU/FAU is set for 9 am at MGM Park. A second game, if necessary would be scheduled for 4pm.