April 2, 2011
HOUSTON – Rhett Stafford went yard as part of a three-hit two-RBI day, but No. 25 Rice scored four times in the bottom of the eighth to steal a victory from the Marshall baseball team, 9-6 on Saturday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Kenny Socorro laced three singles and added a RBI and Steven Ross went 2-for-4 with a two-run double as Marshall dropped to 10-15, 1-4 C-USA.
Rice (20-11, 3-2 C-USA) held a 2-0 lead entering the top of the third when the Herd bats broke through against starter Abe Gonzales. Socorro, making his 126th consecutive start, began the rally with a single to left. Two outs were recorded by the Owls’ defense before a two-out spurt got the Thundering Herd rolling. Victor Gomez dunked a base hit into center to bring home Socorro with the first run of the day. MU would then rally off two more singles to load the bases for Ross. The junior delivered by smoking a double to right-center plating two, before R.Stafford was thrown out on a bang-bang play at home to end the inning.
It also spelled the end of the day for Gonzales, as the southpaw was lifted for Tyler Duffey after tossing the first three frames.
A mammoth blast to left-center field from R.Stafford to start the sixth, which cleared the 375 marker with ease, marked his team leading fourth jack of the season. Duffey would settle down to strike out the next two batters, before walking Gray Stafford. Another Owls’ arm was called upon in righty John Simms, and Socorro promptly greeted him with a two-strike out RBI single, extending the MU advantage to 5-2.
The bottom of the sixth would be the last for Mason, who had a solid outing in his seventh start of the year. The lefty issued a free pass and single prior to facing the ever dangerous Anthony Rendon. Mason geared up and struck out the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year, but Shane Hoelschner followed by connecting for a three-run homer to bring the game even at five. After Mason walked the next batter, he was pulled in favor of Josh King (0-1), who induced an inning ending double play to escape without further damage.
Mason’s final line was 5.1 innings pitched, giving up five runs (four earned) off six hits with four walks and two strikeouts. He collected eight outs by way of the ground, three by the air, and fired first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 24 batters he faced.
R.Stafford continued to swing a hot bat lining a two-out two-strike single to left allowing Isaac Ballou to race home with the Herd’s sixth run. Ballou had singled to start the seventh, stole third and moved up on a ground out, scoring easily on the base knock from R.Stafford.
Leading 6-5 entering the bottom of the eighth, Rice was able to rough up the Herd bullpen with four runs. The big blow was a bases clearing double from J.T. Chargois to take a 9-6 lead to the ninth.
Lefty closer Tony Cingrani retired the three batters he faced to record his third save of the season to secure the victory for the Owls.
Jeremy Fant (2-0) picked up the victory with two innings of scoreless relief.
The final game of the series is scheduled for Sunday with first pitch at 11 a.m. ET.