Rice Baseball rallied to take the lead against Houston in the 12th inning, holding on for a big win over their crosstown rivals on Tuesday.
Although the Silver Glover series had already been decided, Rice baseball entered their final midweek tilt against crosstown rival Houston with renewed focus. The Owls lost the first game to the Cougars 10-7, then dropped the second contest 8-2. That second contest kicked off a nine-game losing streak, which the Owls brought into the series finale at Schroeder Park on Tuesday night.
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Houston struck first on an RBI single in the third inning off Rice starter Parker Smith. Rice answered quickly with a run of their own in the next half inning, driven in by this no-doubt blast from Connor Walsh:
File this one under a NO DOUBTER! pic.twitter.com/pVnyV2Qsra
— Rice Baseball (@RiceBaseball) May 18, 2022
Tied at one, both teams swapped two-run frames in the sixth inning, setting up a close contest as the fast-paced game careened into the later moments. Houston would take the lead in the bottom of the eighth, forcing the Owls into a do-or-die ninth inning where Wals, again, was the hero. He doubled, advanced to third on an error and scored on a balk to tie the game.
Garrett Zaskoda was tremendous in extras, pitching the tenth, eleventh and twelfth innings without allowing a run. Those zeroes allowed the offense, courtesy of a crucial two-out single by Jack Ben-Shoshan, to put Rice in front for the first time in the game before Zaskoda returned to close out the win.
What it means | Proof of life
It’s been a rough month for Rice baseball. Any thoughts that this team had turned the corner after a series win against Western Kentucky were quickly dashed by a string of games that were largely uncompetitive.
Win or lose, this team was supposed to show progress as the season moved onward. It hasn’t really felt like that’s been the case of late. That’s what made Tuesday’s somewhat inconsequential game so important.
No matter the record, head coach Jose Cruz Jr. indicated he hadn’t thrown in the towel just yet. When discussing the last few games after their weekend series with Middle Tennessee, Cruz Jr. was fairly frank. “I try to win every game I play,” he said. “I’m still expecting them to go out and give me high effort and get out there and try to win a ballgame.”
For the first time in more than two weeks, the Owls did it. On the road against a rival they came from behind, forced extra innings, pitched well enough to win and found the big hit when they needed it most. One good game won’t erase the weeks of disappointing play. But it is proof — however slight — that Rice baseball hasn’t quit just yet. There may still be hope here after all.
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