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Tuesday, March 28, 2023 — Houston, TX

Texas routs Rice 9-1 at Reckling Park

By Jessica Cannon     3/13/08 7:00pm

The baseball team book-ended the last two weeks with a sweep of the Minute Maid Park College Classic and a 7-3 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi University, but there were a few bumps in the road in between. Not only did No. 15 Rice (9-6) drop two one-run games in a row against Sam Houston State University and Dallas Baptist University on the road, but the Owls were smashed 9-3 by Michigan State University in the opener of the Rice Classic. While the team rebounded with wins over Western Carolina University and Creighton University, the Owls rolled over against the 19th-ranked University of Texas to even the season series at 1-1.The Owls will look to defend their home field once more this weekend, facing Winthrop University four times in as many days, starting today at 6:30 p.m. The Eagles (3-10) have yet to beat a ranked opponent this year, falling three times to the University of Southern California and once to the University of North Carolina. Before the week is over, the Owls will also take on the University of Louisiana-Lafayette at home at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

These upcoming opponents will be relatively easier than the foes Rice faced two weeks ago at the Minute Maid Park Classic, which the Owls began with a 7-2 thumping over the University of Oklahoma. Freshman outfielder Chad Mozingo continued his blistering start, getting three hits, scoring three runs and tacking on an RBI for good measure. In the top of the eighth, junior catcher Adam Zornes crushed a towering shot that hit the outfield facade above the visitor's bullpen for a solo home run, his second of the season. Sophomore pitcher Ryan Berry went 6.2 innings, allowing just five hits and three walks while racking up eight strikeouts - matching his season-high - for his first win of the season.

The next day, Rice squared off with Texas (10-4) for the first time this season and quickly handed the Longhorns a 10-4 loss. The Owls' fifth victory in a row was marked by 10 runs on 15 hits, three of which found their way over the fence. Senior pitcher Chris Kelley, who was stellar in relief, earned his first win with four strikeouts in 4.2 innings.

On the final day of action, Texas Tech University ended up being Rice's third victim of the weekend. Tied 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Zornes' single knocked in junior infielder Aaron Luna for the go-ahead run. Sophomore third baseman Diego Seastrunk also contributed three hits, finishing the weekend batting .583 with two home runs and earning Most Outstanding Player honors.

Coming off a six-game winning streak, Rice suddenly found itself struggling against unranked opponents. First, the team lost a nail-biter to Sam Houston State (9-6) by a score of 13-12, and then, one night later, dropped an extra-inning affair against Dallas Baptist (9-4), which ended with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th by the Patriots' Andrew Pirtle.

"I think we've been real close a couple times," sophomore infielder Jimmy Comerota said. "We got a young team that's fighting hard and that's playing hard, and it'll come together."

Seeking to reverse their fortunes, the Owls returned home for the Rice Classic last weekend, but soon found themselves on the wrong end of a beating from Michigan State (5-7), losing 9-3. The following day, Rice took on Western Carolina (4-9)and sustained several rallies to squeeze by with a final score of 12-11. Senior outfielder Derek Myers was the first and the last Owl to put runs up on the board, blasting his first collegiate home run in the lead-off at bat in the bottom of the first, and closing out the comeback victory with a game-winning RBI double in the bottom of the ninth.

Junior outfielder Jared Gayhart noted that while repeatedly close games may be grating, the team can hold its own.

"It was a real nail-biter," Gayhart said. "I'm getting tired of these types of games, but it's a good win, nevertheless. I'm not worried about it - we'll be fine."

His words proved to be prophetic, as the Owls took down Creighton (7-4) by a run in the final game of the Rice Invitational. The Owls were down three separate times before Gayhart's RBI double in the bottom of the eighth put Rice ahead 7-6. Gayhart, pitching in relief for the first time as an Owl, then struck out the side in the ninth.

Texas came to town on Tuesday evening, looking for revenge for the previous week's loss. Senior pitcher Cole St. Clair held the Longhorns scoreless until the fourth inning, when they strung together four consecutive singles and batted around the lineup to go up 5-0. Texas then tacked on three more in the eighth to give Rice its worst loss of the year.

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