June 3, 2011
HOUSTON - Even a season-high 22 hits and double-digit runs by the Rice offense could not overshadow a sensational complete-game pitching effort by Owl senior left-hander Abe Gonzales in the Rice baseball team's 14-2 victory over Alcorn State in the opening round of the NCAA Regional Friday evening at Reckling Park.
Gonzales held the Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Alcorn State to just a pair of runs on seven hits and no walks in only his sixth start of the season, and his first career start in the NCAA Tournament. The Houston native from nearby Saint Thomas High School struck out four and efficiently used 101 pitches to keep a Braves offense in check that only a week ago averaged 10 runs a game on the way to winning the SWAC Tournament title.
There were only three times when Alcorn State successfully had the leadoff batter reach base, and only once did Gonzales allow the Braves get a base hit after there were two outs recorded in the inning. He improved his record to 8-2 on the season with, for the first time all season, generous support in one of starts.
Before the hits from Gonzales' teammates started rolling-in, Rice opportunistically took advantage of some ASU fielding errors for a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning. Michael Fuda knocked a one-out double and Shane Hoelscher followed with a walk. Derek Hamilton singled to right field to score Fuda, but a Brave throwing error on the play allowed the runners to take an extra base. Two more ASU errors on ground ball from J.T. Chargois led to another run for a 2-0 lead.
Alcorn State would not go away so easy and came right back with a run in the top of the third. Edgardo Salas singled with one out and he moved into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Hollins. Salas came home on a single by Angel Rosa to make it 2-1.
The Owls answered with two in the bottom of the frame. Michael Ratterree led off with a double to center. Craig Manuel singled and Ratterree held up at third base, but when a throw from the outfield went to home plate Manuel hustled to second base. Both runners scored on Ryan Lewis' base hit into right field to stretch the margin to 4-1.
The Blue & Gray batted around to double its scoring output with four more runs in the fifth. The big blow was a two-run double by Ratterree that featured four hits in the inning. Rice added one more in the sixth.
ASU scored its second run of the game in the seventh. First baseman Eduardo Gonzalez hit a solo home run to make it 9-2. Rice added two more in the seventh to reach double-digits, and closed-out the offensive fireworks with three in the bottom of the eighth for a 14-2 final.
Offensively eight Owls in the starting lineup had two or more hits on the night. Ryan Lewis went a career-best 4-for-6 with three RBI. Ratterree, Fuda and Hoelscher all had three hits and two RBI each.
Rice improved to 42-19 on the season. Alcorn State fell to 27-29 overall. The Owls next face longtime rival Baylor in a winner's-bracket game of the Regional at 6 pm on Saturday. The No. 2 seed Baylor Bears defeated California 6-4 Friday in the first game of Regional. California meets Alcorn State Saturday at 2 pm in an elimination game.