May 16, 2013
Box Score (PDF)
HOUSTON -- A strong start was overshadowed by No. 20 Rice’s three-run surge in the second inning, and Marshall’s baseball team lost the televised opener to the Owls by a score of 4-2 beneath the lights of Reckling Park on Thursday.
Marshall (20-32, 6-16 C-USA) jumped out on top of Rice (35-17, 13-9 C-USA) and one of the league’s top pitchers in the early going but was held to just two hits over the final seven innings.
In the highly-anticipated opener broadcast nationally by Fox College Sports, Eric Escobedo saw to it that the Thundering Herd took the first lead. With two on and two out in the top of the first, the sophomore tripled to right field, scoring Andrew Dundon and Isaac Ballou to give Marshall a 2-0 lead. Dundon reached in the inning on a leadoff walk and stole second before Ballou beat out an infield single and also stole second.
After a scoreless bottom half of the first, Marshall threatened in the second, loading the bases on a Matt Kirkwood bunt single, Sergio Leon’s single through the right side, and an infield base hit by Dundon, all with one out. The trio was left stranded, though, as Gray Stafford and Ballou were retired to end the inning.
Rice right-fielder Michael Ratterree cut the Thundering Herd’s lead in half in the Owls second frame by delivering a solo home run, his ninth of the season and 31st of his career, to left field. Rice did not let up in the inning either, getting the next three hitters to reach en route to two more runs to take the lead 3-2.
Wayland Moore (2-4) suffered the damage in the second but settled in to retire 12 straight from the end of the second through the first part of the sixth. Even after his string of retired hitters was put to an end, the senior left-hander continued to keep Conference USA’s hitting leaders guessing until he exited in the seventh.
Kolin Stanley entered in Moore’s relief when the Marshall starter put two of the first three on via walks in the seventh. Stanley faced two batters, coaxing a ground ball to the first that would have ended the inning on a double play if not for first baseman Skyler Ewing’s hustle down the first base line to keep the inning alive.
Stanley walked the next man which brought in senior Matt Hummel who induced a fly ball to end the threat.
Hummel ran into trouble in the eighth which led to an unearned run for Rice, making the score 4-2.
In the ninth, the C-USA saves leader Zech Lemond was perfect and collected his 13th save, setting a new Owls single-season saves mark.
Rice starter Austin Kubitza (7-4) was the winner. The right-hander went eight innings and gave up two (earned) runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out seven.
Moore went 6.1 innings with five hits, three (earned) runs, two walks, and two K’s.
Escobedo finished 1-for-4 with two RBI’s. Kirkwood (2-for-3) added a fourth-inning single to center field to his bunt single in the second.
Herd relievers Alex Thackston and Kyle Kessler also saw time out of the pen, facing (and retiring) a batter apiece.
In other league news, UAB dropped a 15-3 decision to Tulane, meaning the Herd keeps its single-game lead over the Blazers. Marshall must continue to win every time the Blazers win in order to qualify for the C-USA postseason tournament.
Marshall and Rice will continue the series Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET here at Reckling Park. Marshall RHP Aaron Blair (5-4, 2.28) will face RHP Jordan Stephens (5-4, 3.12). Saturday’s finale will begin at 2 p.m. ET.