June 3, 2012
HOUSTON -- With runners on base every inning and in scoring position a host of times, the Rice baseball team never seemed more than a single hit away, but Sam Houston State claimed a 4-1 win over the Owls Sunday in an elimination game of the NCAA Houston Regional.
The Owls' 2012 baseball season has come to an end at 41-19. Sam Houston improved to 40-21 on the year and will advance to play Arkansas at 6 p.m. Sunday.
From the start Rice looked to get offensive. Playing as the visiting team in the Regional format the Owls loaded the bases in the top of the first inning but left the men stranded. Rice also had runners in the second and third innings before standing a runner at third base in the top of the fourth.
Bearkat starting pitcher Michael Oros would allow just one run in eight innings of work. Rice got Sam Houston to bend, but the Bearkats never broke.
"You've got to give Sam Houston credit", said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "They made some good plays defensively and they fought with the bat against some pretty good stuff. Sometimes you let the other team beat you and sometimes they just play very well. I think this was a combination of both, because we really didn't have a very good approach at the plate for several innings. They played well. They deserved to win."
Sam Houston opened the scoring in the bottom of the third inning. Corey Toups led off with a single, stole second base and moved to third on a grounder to the right side. He scored on an Owl error for a 1-0 advantage.
The Bearkats added a run in the fourth on three base hits. Colt Atwood's two-out single stretched the margin to 2-0, but Rice worked out of the jam with the bases loaded without further damage.
Rice came right back with a run in the top of the fifth. Christian Stringer and J.T. Chargois collected back-to-back singles with one-away. Jeremy Rathjen laced a double to the gap in left-center. Stringer scored easily as the ball just-missed clearing the wall and bounced-back into the outfield, but Sam Houston made the relay throws to get the key out at home plate to maintain its 2-1 lead.
"I wasn't sure (if it could clear the fence) off the bat," Rathjen said. "I would have liked for it to go over, obviously, but it didn't. That's just the way the ball fell today. I will live with it."
Rice, who stranded 11 base runners on the day, could not convert an opportunity in the seventh when the Owls had two on board and just one out. The Blue & Gray also stranded a runner in scoring position in the eighth inning after Geoff Perrott hit a two-out double.
Sam Houston would extend its lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the eighth with a pair of runs. With the bases loaded, Anthony Azar belted a two-run single.
With a three-run lead, the Bearkats retired the top of the Rice order in the ninth inning to advance at the regional.
Senior right-hander Matthew Reckling started for Rice and pitched four innings, giving up five hits and two earned runs with a pair of strikeouts. He finished the season with an 8-3 record on the mound. He was relieved by veterans Taylor Wall (2.0 IP) and Tyler Duffey (2.0 IP").
"It's always disappointing when you host one and don't advance," coach Graham said. "Yes, we?re disappointed. I think the team that comes out of this regional is going to have a real good chance to go to Omaha."