Rice University did its damage Wednesday, though it took the Owls nearly 23 hours over two days to nail down a 6-2 first-round win on the second day of the 2018 Conference USA Baseball Championship Thursday afternoon.
The game was suspended Wednesday after six innings after two lightning delays and then a continued threat of inclement weather. The resumption of the game was delayed Thursday by threatening weather before the teams were able to conclude the final three innings.
All told, the three delays on Wednesday and Thursday, totaled 5 hours, 10 minutes.
The Owls (25-29-2) scored twice on bases-loaded walks in the second inning and added a run in the third on a fielder’s choice grounder to lead 3-0.
Tech second baseman Taylor Young led off the bottom of the third with his second home run of the season to get the second-seeded Bulldogs (38-18) back within 3-1.
But Rice shortstop Ford Proctor smacked his eighth homer of the season off the flagpole beyond the right-field fence in the top of the fifth inning, a three-run shot that gave the Owls a five-run cushion when the game was suspended.
“That ball had a lot of depth left on it when it hit that pole,” Rice coach Wayne Graham said. “He hit that ball. That was one of those 10 a year he hit perfect.”
The Bulldogs pushed across a run in the eighth inning Thursday off Rice’s third pitcher, Kendal Jefferies, when shortstop Dalton Skelton walked, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on an infield single and error.
But Jefferies wrapped up his three-inning stint with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to pick up his fifth save of the season. Rice starter Matt Caterino (7-4) went five innings Wednesday, allowing a run on two hits while walking two and striking out five.
Louisiana Tech starter David Leal (4-4) took the loss, allowing three runs on four hits. Leal walked four, struck out four.
Rice moved into a winner’s bracket game Friday against third-seeded Florida Atlantic, while Louisiana Tech will face sixth-seeded Florida International later Thursday in the tourney’s first elimination game.
“That’s the good thing about this team: We like our pitching staff,” Louisiana Tech hitting coach Travis Creel said. “We think we have the arms to stay in this tournament.”
No. 5 Texas-San Antonio 11, No. 4 Charlotte 1
BILOXI _ Fifth-seeded University of Texas-San Antonio hit for the cycle in consecutive at-bats in a nine-run, third inning Thursday morning to pull off an opening-round upset for a fourth consecutive postseason at the 2018 Conference USA Baseball Championship at MGM Park.
UTSA (32-32) collected 18 hits, including seven in the decisive frame against Charlotte starting pitcher Chase Gooding (4-2) and reliever Phillip Perry.
“It’s just hard to recover from that,” Charlotte coach Loren Hibbs said. “We try to stay away from big innings because that’s what really hurts you in college baseball.
“But we couldn’t stop the momentum. We didn’t defend well enough and we didn’t pitch well enough, especially in that inning.”
UTSA leadoff man Bryan Arias became the 10th player and second in past two days to collect five hits in a game. Arias hit a two-run home run, a double and three singles. He also was hit by a pitch, reaching base in all six of his plate appearances, and scored three runs.
Roadrunners starting pitcher Chance Kirby (7-4) allowed an unearned run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out two and walking two.
The two hits, both singles, came in the first inning, as Kirby retired 10 consecutive batters between the second and fifth innings. He set down 18 of the final 20 batters he faced and 16 of the final 17.
“To come out and swing the bats the way we did was just fantastic, and a great way to start the tournament,” UTSA coach Jason Marshall said. “(Chance), if you look at the numbers, he’s just had that kind of year.
“We were fortunate to get those runs early and allow Chance to settle in. When he gets rolling with the strikes, he can be tough.”
Charlotte (31-23) scored an unearned run in the first inning on second baseman Tommy Bullock’s single before UTSA broke the game open.
Gooding didn’t help himself, hitting Arias with a pitch to open the third. After a lineout, center fielder Trent Bowles singled before Goodwin hit first baseman Tony Beam to load the bases.
Right fielder Dylan Rock tied the game with an infield single, and the Roadrunners took a 2-1 lead when Charlotte third baseman Jackson Mims’ throw went awry, allowing Bowles to score.
That ended Gooding’s morning and brought in Perry from the pen.
Third baseman Chris Estrada walked to load the bases, and then the Roadrunners strung together four consecutive hits.
Catcher Garrett Moon doubled down the line to bring home two runs and shortstop Joshua Lamb followed with a two-run triple off the left-field wall to give UTSA a 6-1 lead.
Second baseman Aldo Buendia brought home Lamb with a single before Arias capped the outburst with his eighth homer of the season.
Bowles had a run-scoring single in the seventh and Jonathan Tapia’s sacrifice fly capped the scoring in the ninth inning.
Bowles had three hits for the Roadrunners, while Estrada, Moon, Lamb and Buendia had two hits each.
Charlotte will face the loser of Southern Miss-Alabama-Birmingham in an elimination game tentatively set for 8:30 p.m. UTSA will play the winner of the USM-UAB game at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
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