Rice tops Marshall, will meet USM in Saturday semis

Rice tops Marshall, will meet USM in Saturday semis
(Source: Patrick Clay)

BILOXI, Miss. (WDAM) - Perhaps the old adage about learning to walk before one can run can be aptly applied to Rice’s 6-3 victory over Marshall Friday afternoon in The First 2019 C-USA Baseball Championship presented by Air Force Reserve at MGM Park.

The seventh-seeded Owls gratefully accepted 13 bases-on-balls from Marshall pitching, mixing in seven hits and a hit batsman to generate enough offense to claim a 6-3 victory over the Thundering Herd.

With the win, Rice (26-32) emerges from the elimination bracket to take on second-seeded Southern Miss in the championship’s semifinals. The Owls would have to defeat the Golden Eagles (36-19) twice Saturday to reach Sunday’s championship game.

USM rallied to defeat 6-4 in 10 innings in Wednesday’s opening round.

The Owls defeated third-seeded Louisiana Tech 4-3 to stay alive while eliminating the Bulldogs from the championship, and then spotted eighth-seeded Marshall (29-27) a 1-0 lead before seizing the lead for good in the third inning.

“We’re proud of our guys,” Rice coach Matt Bragga said. “It was a great battle.

“We lose a couple of days ago, came back and battled, and fought and won a good game (Thursday). Won a good game (Friday) as well.”

Tucker Linder, who would drive in all of the Herd’s runs, gave Marshall the lead with a two-out single, but the Owls scored twice in the third inning.

An out after Aaron Beaulaurier doubled off the wall in left field, Bradley Gneting blooped a double into short-center field. Gnieting moved to third base on a wild pitch and scored on an error.

Rice added two more runs in the fifth inning on Andrew Dunlap’s run-scoring single and a bases-loaded walk, but Linder’s two-run single in the bottom of the inning pulled Marshall within 4-3.

But that was the last of the runs for the Herd as Kendal Jeffries (3-4) came out of the bullpen to pitch 4 2/3 scoreless innings for the Owls. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out five.

Cade Edwards’ two-run single in the eighth inning salted away the win.

Marshall starter Ryan Capuano (1-3) took the loss, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits over 4 1/3 innings. He walked five and struck out four.

“I’m just so proud of the whole team and the way they fought at the end,” Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said. “They were so resilient through the whole year, especially my seniors.This has been an unbelievable group that’s graduating.

“They were fun to be with for four years. They had a chance to come to a couple of conference tournaments and play for a championship.”

“Gneiting had just the one hit, but walked three times and wound up scoring three times.

Trei Cruz had two singles, walked twice and scored twice.

Shane Hanon and Linder had two hits apiece for Marshall.

Late Thursday

Florida Atlantic 6, Western Kentucky 1

BILOXI, Miss. - Mike Ruff turned in one of the best performances of his career, allowing just a run on three hits as the top-seeded Owls earned a day of rest as the lone unbeaten on their side of bracket.

Ruff (6-4), a senior who was making his 40th career appearance, walked three and tied a season-high with 11 strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings.

“That was the Mike Ruff show (Thursday) night,” FAU John McCormack said. “His best outing in an FAU uniform. He did a really nice job, had some huge strikeouts in the early innings.

“We just couldn’t put these guys away. They kept turning double plays ... Can’t say enough about Mike Ruff.”

FAU finished with 13 hits and coaxed 10 walks from the Hilltoppers, but stranded 18 runners.

“We left 18 guys on base, which is not good,” McCormack said.

FAU (39-18), the regular-season champions, will need to win just once on Saturday to reach Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game.

Fourth-seeded Western Kentucky (26-28-1) slid into the elimination bracket, and will meet fifth-seeded Texas-San Antonio (27-29) at 6:30 p.m. Friday in a rematch of Wednesday’s opening round.

FAU scored twice in the first inning off WKU starter Joe Filosa (1-2). The first run crossed on Joe Montes’ RBI grounder and the second came when Wilfredo Alvarez hit his first home run of the season.

Mitchell Hartigan’s RBI double made it 3-0 in the third inning before the Hilltoppers scored their lone run in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Ray Zuberer III.

The Owls scored an unearned run in the fifth inning, then tacked on the final run in the seventh inning on a hit batsman followed by three walks.

Hartigan led FAU with two doubles and a single and Pedro Pages had a double and two singles. Bobby Morgenson finished with a double and single and Alvarez added a single to go with his home run.

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