#7 Rice Takes First CUSA Series at #28 Southern Miss
After losing Friday's game, the Owls rebound to win initial conference series
HATTIESBURG , MS — Rice entered their C-USA opening series against Southern Miss with an impressive 17-8 record. The Owls continued their solid hitting while taking 2 out of 3 games and starting off their conference schedule by picking up a huge series victory in a difficult environment at USM’s Pete Taylor Park. After dropping game one, the Owls bounced back with two straight wins, including an offensive explosion in Sunday’s series finale.
Rice @ Southern Miss - Game 1
Despite two home runs from left fielder Jordan Dodson, the Owls were unable to scrape together enough offense to knock off Southern Miss in game one of the weekend series. The junior had all three RBI’s for Rice who fell 9-3 thanks to 12 hits and solid pitching by Southern Miss.
Rice was in the hole early as starter Ryan Berry gave up a two-run home run to Michael Ewing with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. Southern Miss never looked back, putting up two more runs in the third, one in the fourth, and four in the seventh. Berry would only last 2 1/3 innings, giving up four earned runs while dropping his first decision of the year.
While the Southern Miss bats took advantage of Rice pitching mistakes, the Owl bats never got going. Aside from Dodson, right fielder Jared Gayhart was the only other player to record a hit, going 2 for 3 with a double. As a whole Rice batters would strike out ten times and walk only twice, never stringing together enough base runners to mount a scoring threat.
The nine runs given up was the second highest total allowed by Rice this season, while four hits was the second fewest on the year.
Rice @ Southern Miss - Game 2
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning junior Bobby Bramhall took the mound for Rice. The lefty would go on to throw a season high 4.1 innings of relief was striking out 6 batters, which was also a season high. Bramhall allowed just four base runners, allowing two hits and walking a pair as well.
While Bramhall was shutting the door on Southern Miss, the Owl offense finally woke up in the sixth inning. After back-to-back walks were issued to Brian Friday and Jared Gayhart, and both runners advanced on a ground out to first by Tyler Henley, Friday scored from third on a wild pitch by Southern Miss starter Barry Bowden.
The Owls went ahead the very next inning thanks to some small ball and a mishap in the field by Southern Miss. Back to back singles by Jordan Dodson and Jess Buenger, a sacrifice bunt by Aaron Luna, and a fielding error loaded the bases for pinch hitter Danny Lehmann who promptly notched an RBI single. Brian Friday was issued a walk and Jared Gayhart hit a sacrifice fly scoring two more runs.
Southern Miss would fire right back with two runs in their half of the seventh, but Rice would add an insurance run in ninth, making the final score 5-3. With the win in long relief, Bobby Bramhall improved to 3-2 on the season.
Rice @ Southern Miss - Game 3
The Rice bats exploded for 13 hits on Sunday and the Owls outscored Southern Miss 18-5 in the rubber match of their weekend series. The win clinched the season opening Conference USA series victory for the Owls who improved to 2-1 in conference play and 19-9 overall.
Leading the way for Rice were junior Joe Savery and sophomore Aaron Luna, each of who drove in four runs in the impressive win. Luna in particular had a very impressive day at the plate going 2-4 with a double and his sixth home run of the season. In total eight Rice batters recorded hits, and five had multi-hit games. Rice received plenty of help from Southern Miss pitching, which had trouble finding the plate all day, walking nine batters in total.
The game was still a contest through seven innings, with Rice leading 10-5, before Southern Miss reliever Bryan Adams took the mound to start the eighth. The Owls would score four runs in each of the next two innings thanks to more solid hitting and an error in the field by Southern Miss.
It was a solid three-man job on the mound for Rice, who got solid innings from Joe Savery, Ryne Tucker, and Scott Longergan. Tacker, who threw the middle four innings of the contest while giving up a pair of runs, picked up the win to improve to 4-1 on the season.
Rice will conclude its four-game road trip on Tuesday when it travels to Austin for a mid-week game with in-state foe and nationally ranked Texas. First pitch with the No. 7 Longhorns is set for 6:05 p.m. (CT) at Disch-Falk Field.
The Owls will then return home to play their first CUSA home series of the season when they welcome the Marshall Thundering Herd to Reckling Park.
Southern Miss will face in-state rival and No. 13 Ole Miss on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. (CT) at Trustmark Park in Pearl, MS. Following their mid-week game with the Rebels, Corky Palmer’s squad will travel to Memphis for its first road series in league play.