June 5, 2006
HOUSTON -- The trio of junior Josh Rodriguez and sophomores Tyler Henley and Jordan Dodson combined for nine of the team's 13 hits to pace number one ranked Rice to a 7-4 come-from-behind win over visiting Baylor in the championship game of the NCAA regional at Reckling Park Monday afternoon. With the team's 13th win in a row the Owls clinched a home Super Regional to be held at Reckling Park next week with the dates and times to be determined later by the NCAA.
Rice advances to an NCAA Super Regional for the sixth time since the format was adopted in 1999. As the second overall seed of the NCAA Tournament, Rice is slated to serve as the Super Regional host for a fourth time in the last seven years.
The Owls would have to rally past a talented Baylor squad that was looking to get back to the College World Series for a second-straight year. With one away in the top of the third, Drew Bias was hit by a pitch and Kevin Russo singled up the middle. Rice starter Joe Savery got a strikeout and appeared to be working out of the inning, but a walk and a wild pitch scored a run. Catcher Zach Dillon followed with a two-run single to left and the Bears quickly had a 3-0 advantage.
The Owls came right back and took the lead with five runs in the bottom of the frame. Henley led off with a single through the right side and two batters later junior Rodriguez connected for his ninth home run of the season with an opposite field shot down the right field line. The two-run blast sparked the team. Savery, batting fifth as the designated hitter, and freshman Aaron Luna followed with back-to-back singles and both scored on a double to right-center by freshman Adam Zornes that gave Rice a 4-3 lead. Dodson lofted a ball into right which he turned into an RBI triple and the Owls were in front for good at 5-3.
Rice added insurance runs in both the fourth and the fifth. Henley led off the fourth with a double to left-center and he moved to third on a ground out. He scored easily on a long sacrifice fly to center by Rodriguez that extended the lead to 6-3. Luna started the fifth with a walk and he took second on a sacrifice by Zornes. A wild pitch moved him to third and he scored on a double by Dodson that made it 7-3.
Henley finished the day with four hits, including a pair of doubles and two runs scored. Rodriguez was 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI. Dodson was 3-for-4 with a double, triple and two RBI.
Baylor managed one final run in the top of the seventh but the Owls' bullpen stepped up once again. Senior Bryce Cox held the Bears in check with 2.2 solid innings. He didn't allow any walks and tied a season-high with four strikeouts. Sophomore Cole St.Clair retired both of final two hitters of the game for his 11th save, the second-highest single season total in school history. Savery earned his first win on the mound since he was sidelined last month. He surrendered just two hits and two walks in five innings with five strikeouts to improve to 5-1 on the year.
Savery, Rodriguez, Henley, Dodson and Degerman were named to the all-regional team. With a stunning 14-strikeout performance in a win over Baylor on Sunday, Degerman was selected as the event's most outstanding player.
Rice improved to 53-10 on the year. The Owls have won 35 of their last 37 games dating back to March 25. Baylor won two games in the NCAA Tournament but saw its season come to an end at 37-26. Super Regional action begins next week at eight sites around the country with dates and times to be determined later by the NCAA.