June 2, 2006
HOUSTON -- Junior Josh Rodriguez singled with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning to complete a five-run Rice rally and lift the number one ranked Owls to a come-from-behind 6-5 win over visiting Prairie View in the first round of the NCAA Regional Friday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Upset-mined Prairie View, the regional's number four seed, built an early 5-1 lead on the number two seed for the entire NCAA tournament. The Owls cut the deficit to two in the third before tying the game in the eighth. In the bottom of the ninth Tyler Henley led off with a walk, Greg Buchanan was hit by a pitch and Brian Friday bunted for a base hit to load the bases with no one out. Rodriguez stepped to the plate and singled to left on the first pitch to give the Blue and Gray a 6-5 victory.
The win was Rice's 11th in a row. The Owls (now 51-10) next face the winner of Friday's late game between Arizona State, the region's number two seed, and third-seeded Baylor at 1 pm on Sunday (June 4).
The Owls opened the game's scoring in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore Joe Savery led off with a base hit to left-center and freshman Aaron Luna followed with a hit over the shortstop. Adam Zornes advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt and Savery came home on a base hit into center by Jordan Dodson.
The Panthers came right back with five big runs in the top of the third. Two walks and hit batter loaded the bases for Eugene Edwards, who singled through the right side to score a pair. With two men still on base, designated hitter Arthur Christal slugged a three-run homer to right field for a 5-1 Prairie View advantage.
Rice answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame. Henley led off with a walk and two batters later Friday belted his eight home run of the year with a shot over the left field wall that made the score 5-3.
The Owls left the bases loaded in the sixth with no one out but could not convert the opportunity to runs. Prairie View had the base loaded in the top of the eighth, as well as two men on in both the fourth and sixth, but the Owls bullpen of Bobby Bell and Bryce Cox kept the Panthers in check.
In the bottom of the eighth Savery led off with a walk and Luna blasted a home run to left field to tie the game, 5-5. Luna's 14th round-tripper of the year set a new Rice single-season mark for home runs by a freshman, breaking Jose Cruz Jr.'s mark of 13 set in 1993. The blast sparked the ninth inning heroics to complete the comeback.
Prairie View fell to 33-21. The Panthers next play in an elimination game scheduled for 8 pm on Saturday. The regional continues through Monday.
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