In his seven innings of work, Middle Tennessee starting pitcher Cody Puckett flashed as the one Conference USA pitcher in recent days who had no trouble handcuffing a recently resurgent Rice Owls lineup. When the lefty departed the game, he had struck out eight and allowed only four hits and two walks. His Blue Raiders took the game 11-1 in a contest that was never in doubt.
Finding himself in a groove after a few early innings, Puckett settled down to keep Rice off balance.
“About the third inning I knew I was in a groove,” said Puckett. “The first two innings were kind of long. I threw a lot of pitches. By the time the third and fourth innings rolled around I was getting ahead and staying ahead and making pitches where I wanted to make them.”
The Rice lineup. with several batters who have managed to claw their way to above the .300 mark in hitting, managed only five hits for the game.
“I just try to focus on what I do,” said Puckett. “They had their batting averages up on the board, so I knew who was hot. Once I got through the fifth I realized I still hadn’t given up any runs.”
Puckett credited his splitter as the pitch that got him through the game.
Middle Tennessee head coach Jim McGuire held up Puckett’s performance as the highlight of the game.
“Cody struggled a little bit early,” said McGuire. “His pitch count was up and he was not in a very good rhythm, but when he settled in and got going he was pretty impressive. He works extremely slow, which is sometimes frustrating for me, but it’s also frustrating for the other team. It gets them out of sync. To me, that’s the story of the day.”
In tandem with Puckett’s performance were the Middle Tennessee batters, who had no problem getting to six different Rice pitchers as the Blue Raiders scored runs in all but first, third, and sixth innings. The final score of 13-1 with 16 hits was, McGuire said, proof of the Blue Raider’s patience.
“We just wanted to try and be really patient,” said McGuire. “That’s all we really talked about.”