May 27, 2006
HOUSTON -- Junior third baseman Josh Rodriguez tied a season high with four hits and junior pitcher Craig Crow set a new season high with nine strikeouts to pace the number one ranked Rice University baseball team to a 7-4 win over visiting Memphis in the semifinal round of the week-long Conference USA Tournament in front of 2,971 fans Saturday afternoon at Reckling Park.
The Owls advanced to Sunday's championship final in their first-ever appearance in the C-USA Tournament with their ninth-consecutive win. Rice hosts crosstown foe the University of Houston in a 1 pm game that is scheduled for a television broadcast by College Sports Television. Houston defeated Tulane 6-0 in the first semifinal of the day.
Rice opened the scoring with a three-run third inning. Greg Buchanan led off with a single through the right side and Brian Friday followed with a walk. Rodriguez executed a textbook bunt that he beat-out for his first hit which loaded the bases. Joe Savery singled up the middle that drove home the first two runs. Aaron Luna drew a walk to re-load the bases and a fielding error on Jordan Dodson's at bat scored Rodriguez.
Memphis came right back with a run in the bottom of the frame. Bill Moss singled with one away and advanced to third on a double down the left field line by Adam Amar. Moss came home on a ground out to the right side that made the score 3-1.
The Owls answered with two more runs in the fourth on three hits and an error. Buchanan singled to start the rally and Friday beat out a bunt for a base hit. A throw on an attempt to pick off Buchanan at second sailed into the outfield and both runners moved up a base. Rodriguez singled them home and the Owls stretched the margin to 5-1.
The Tigers staged a rally of their own in the fifth. Will Petersen and Moss started it off with back-to-back singles. Rice got two quick outs and had a chance to end the inning, but a fielding error loaded the bases for the Tigers. Michael Murray made the most of the opportunity and brought them home with a triple down the right field line that made the score 5-4.
The Blue and Gray scratched out a run in the sixth with two away. Rodriguez' third hit went safely to right and advanced to second on a balk. An infield single by Savery put men on the corners and Luna was hit by a pitch to load them one more time. Freshman Kenny Ford was brought in to pinch hit and he drew a walk that scored a run for a 6-4 advantage.
In the top of the eighth Ford singled with one away and Derek Myers pinch ran for him at first. The moved quickly turned into a run when Dodson doubled to left and Myers scored for an 7-4 final.
Rice improved to 49-10 on the year. Memphis fell to 32-28 overall. The tournament concludes with Sunday's CSTV championship final. The winner earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament beginning next week.