May 31, 2013
EUGENE, Ore. - For the second time in as many games the Rice baseball team prevailed in eleven innings, defeating the University of San Francisco 3-2 in the opening round of the NCAA Regional Friday afternoon in Eugene, Oregon.
With the victory Rice (42-17) next meets regional host Oregon at 8 pm Central Time (6 pm Pacific). The game is set for an ESPN3 broadcast.
Playing as the home team for the regional opener, Rice scored the walk-off winning run on a two-out RBI by freshman Blake Fox. San Francisco had a chance to make a play and record the final out, but the Dons could not fight off a hard sun and the ball bounced-in for a game-winning hit for the Owls.
"We're thankful for the sunny day here in Oregon," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "Obviously we're going to have to hit and play better if we want to have to keep playing."
San Francisco was playing well andn opened the scoring in the top of the second inning. Zachary Turner led off with a single through the left side. Mitchell Rowan lined a two-out double to left for a 1-0 advantage.
Dons starting pitcher Haden Hinkle kept Rice in check through the first four frames, limiting the Owls to just one hit and two base-runners overall. In the bottom of the fifth, freshman Leon Byrd laced a one-out base hit up the middle. Senior Geoff Perrott followed with a two-run homer over the wall in left. Perrott's second career round-tripper, and his first since 2011, put the Blue & Gray in front 2-1.
Rice junior right-hander Austin Kubitza started and worked 7.0 innings. He allowed two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out six.
USF tied the game in the eighth. Harrison Bruce pinch hit and reached on a high chopper that bounced just behind the pitcher's mound. Bruce stole and went to third on a ground out. With one away, the Dons hit an infield grounder that the Owls tried to get Bruce coming home. The throw was high, however, allowing Bruce to score to make it a new game, 2-2.
The Owls were able to put the lead runner on base for the final five innings of the contest, but didn't push across the run until the eleventh. Shane Hoelscher singled up the middle and advanced to second on a sacrifice by Michael Aquino. With first base open the Dons elected to walk Byrd. USF caught Hoelscher on the front end of a double-steal, but Byrd was safe at second with two away.
The Dons looked to be on the way out of the inning on a strikeout, but a passed ball on the play put runners on the corners. Fox followed with a liner to left field that bounced in for the game-winning hit, Byrd scored and the Owls moved into the winner's bracket for the third-straight year.