June 3, 2012
It was a tough day on the diamond for Conference USA, as regular season champion Rice nad East Carolina were eliminated, while UCF was unable to capitalize on an opportunity to advance to a Super Regional. The Knights will have another opportunity vs. the red-hot Seawolves on Monday night.
SAM HOUSTON STATE 4, RICE 1
HOUSTON -- With runners on base every inning and in scoring position a host of times, the Rice baseball team never seemed more than a single hit away, but Sam Houston State claimed a 4-1 win over the Owls Sunday in an elimination game of the NCAA Houston Regional.
The Owls' 2012 baseball season has come to an end at 41-19. Sam Houston improved to 40-21 on the year and will advance to play Arkansas at 6 p.m. Sunday.
From the start Rice looked to get offensive. Playing as the visiting team in the Regional format the Owls loaded the bases in the top of the first inning but left the men stranded. Rice also had runners in the second and third innings before standing a runner at third base in the top of the fourth.
Bearkat starting pitcher Michael Oros would allow just one run in eight innings of work. Rice got Sam Houston to bend, but the Bearkats never broke.
"You've got to give Sam Houston credit", said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "They made some good plays defensively and they fought with the bat against some pretty good stuff. Sometimes you let the other team beat you and sometimes they just play very well. I think this was a combination of both, because we really didn't have a very good approach at the plate for several innings. They played well. They deserved to win."
Sam Houston opened the scoring in the bottom of the third inning. Corey Toups led off with a single, stole second base and moved to third on a grounder to the right side. He scored on an Owl error for a 1-0 advantage.
The Bearkats added a run in the fourth on three base hits. Colt Atwood's two-out single stretched the margin to 2-0, but Rice worked out of the jam with the bases loaded without further damage.
Rice came right back with a run in the top of the fifth. Christian Stringer and J.T. Chargois collected back-to-back singles with one-away. Jeremy Rathjen laced a double to the gap in left-center. Stringer scored easily as the ball just-missed clearing the wall and bounced-back into the outfield, but Sam Houston made the relay throws to get the key out at home plate to maintain its 2-1 lead.
"I wasn't sure (if it could clear the fence) off the bat," Rathjen said. "I would have liked for it to go over, obviously, but it didn't. That's just the way the ball fell today. I will live with it."
Rice, who stranded 11 base runners on the day, could not convert an opportunity in the seventh when the Owls had two on board and just one out. The Blue & Gray also stranded a runner in scoring position in the eighth inning after Geoff Perrott hit a two-out double.
Sam Houston would extend its lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the eighth with a pair of runs. With the bases loaded, Anthony Azar belted a two-run single.
With a three-run lead, the Bearkats retired the top of the Rice order in the ninth inning to advance at the regional.
Senior right-hander Matthew Reckling started for Rice and pitched four innings, giving up five hits and two earned runs with a pair of strikeouts. He finished the season with an 8-3 record on the mound. He was relieved by veterans Taylor Wall (2.0 IP) and Tyler Duffey (2.0 IP").
"It's always disappointing when you host one and don't advance," coach Graham said. "Yes, we?re disappointed. I think the team that comes out of this regional is going to have a real good chance to go to Omaha."
NORTH CAROLINA 5, EAST CAROLINA 3
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Fourth-ranked North Carolina used a strong pitching performance by freshman Benton Moss to eliminate instate rival East Carolina 5-3 Sunday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium.
UNC (46-15) plated a trio of runs in the top of the seventh and withstood a pair of late ECU rallies on its way to advancing into the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional championship round Sunday at 6:00 p.m. (ET).
After Moss and Pirate starter Jharel Cotton exchanged three scoreless innings to begin the contest, the Tar Heels grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Tommy Coyle led off the frame with a single to left and stole second before moving to third on Jacob Stallings' single over Corey Thompson's head at third. With runners on the corners and one out, Cody Stubbs lifted a high fly ball to Tim Younger that scored Coyle and gave the host squad an early advantage.
North Carolina extended its lead to 2-0 in the sixth. Stubbs drew a one-out walk and moved into scoring position following a wild pitch by Cotton. The ECU right-hander was lifted for Andy Smithmyer, who struck out Shell McCain for the second out. Brian Holberton sent a clutch run-scoring single into left, putting the Heels up by a pair.
That was all the run support Moss (7-2) would need as he allowed one run (earned) on six hits in six innings.
Cotton (8-3) was impressive against the nation's overall No. 6 seed, allowing a pair of runs (both earned) on three hits in 5 1/3 frames of work. He walked three and struck out two.
The Pirates (36-24-1) trimmed the lead to 2-1 on Drew Reynolds' RBI single to right center. Mike Ussery ignited the rally with a two-out hit and the senior second baseman advanced to second on Younger's looping liner to right. Reynolds brought home Ussery with a flare over the head of Coyle at second. UNC avoided further damage as Stallings threw out Reynolds, who tried advancing to second on Chaz Frank's throw home from the outfield.
North Carolina seized control of the contest in the seventh, as Smithmyer walked Frank and Coyle with one out. The runners moved up 90 feet after Smithmyer was called for a balk and with first base open on a 3-2 count to Colin Moran. The Pirates elected to intentionally walk the Tar Heels' first baseman to load the bases and set up a potential inning-ending double play.
Reynolds replaced Smithmyer on the mound and Stallings lifted a sacrifice fly to left off East Carolina's closer, extending the lead to 3-1. Reynolds issued a walk to Stubbs to once again load the bases and pinch-hitter Mike Zolk produced the game-winning run as he drove in a pair with a line drive single into center field.
Smithmyer was charged with all three seventh-inning runs and allowed one hit, walked three, and struck out two in one stanza.
Reynolds finished the game having tossed 2 2/3 frames, walking two, yielding a hit, and fanning one.
Trailing 5-1 in the eighth, East Carolina mounted a threat against UNC's R.C. Orlan, who replaced Moss in the seventh. Chase McDonald and Jack Reinheimer recorded back-to-back singles to right before Orlan was replaced by Luis Paula. Younger greeted Paula with a single into right, his third base knock of the day, to bring the Pirates within three, 5-2. Paula was replaced by left-handed specialist Tate Parrish, who retired Reynolds on a pop out to short, ending the rally.
Orlan allowed one run (earned) on two hits in 1 2/3 stanzas, while Paula and Parrish each pitched to just one batter apiece.
Michael Morin, who blew a save in day two of regional action against St. John's, earned the save for North Carolina despite surrendering a solo home run to John Wooten with one out. Morin struck out two in the ninth on his way to establishing the Tar Heels' single-season saves record (19).
Despite amassing 10 hits to UNC's five, East Carolina walked eight batters and five Tar Heel hurlers did not issue a free pass on the afternoon.
Holberston was the only Heel with more than one hit as the designated hitter singled twice.
McDonald continued his torrid, late-season surge as the sophomore recorded his third multi-hit performance in as many days. In seven career NCAA Regional tilts, the big first baseman has had at least two base knocks in six contests.
Younger paced East Carolina offensively on Sunday, picking up three singles and an RBI. Reynolds, Wooten, Cannon and Reinheimer each contributed a lone hit to the Pirates' 10-hit performance.
A 2012 NCAA Tournament berth marks the 12th time in the last 14th years in which the Pirates have qualified for national post-season play and 26th in the programs history.
STONY BROOK 12, UCF 5
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The No. 15 UCF baseball team will have to wait until Monday night to attempt to advance to its first Super Regional in program history after it fell to No. 25 Stony Brook, 12-5, Sunday in Game 6 of the Coral Gables Regional.
Playing from behind for the first time in the tournament, the Knights (45-16) were unable to overcome a potent Seawolves (49-12) offense that totaled 15 hits, including five doubles. Both teams will meet in Game 7 of the regional at 7 p.m. Monday for the right to advance in postseason play.
The Knights totaled seven hits in the contest, including D.J. Hicks who had a 2-for-3 performance and his first home run since May 6. Travis Shreve also went 2-for-4 to up his team-leading batting average to .354.
"The message to the guys afterward was that we just need to play better and be better in every aspect of the game. (Monday) everything is there for you," head coach Terry Rooney said. "Everything that you want to accomplish, everything you've done to put yourself in position to win a regional championship, is still there. We have a midnight rule (to forget) and we need to regroup. Tomorrow is a new day."
Stony Brook, who owns the most wins in college baseball this year, jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead when it scored three runs on three hits and a pair of UCF errors in the second inning. The Seawolves cashed in on a RBI groundout, a double to right-center and a throwing error.
UCF responded in the bottom-half as Hicks smashed a 1-0 pitch over the fence in right-center to pull the Knights within two. Hicks' homer was his team-leading 12th this season and 34th of his career.
The Seawolves struck again in the third and fourth, mashing six hits, including a trio of doubles to knock out starter Eric Skoglund (six runs, three earned) and tag reliever Bryan Brown with one earned of his own to push the lead to 7-1.
Facing an 8-2 deficit in the seventh, the Knights rallied for three runs after sending the first five batters to the plate without recording an out. Shreve notched a RBI single and Sweeney walked with the bases loaded for the first two runs, while Friedrich notched a sacrifice fly before the inning came to an end after Hicks was unable to check his swing on a called third strike.
Stony Brook would continue its assault on the baseball, answering with three runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to close out the game.