A dozen or so hours after the Rice Owls experienced a loss that felt like a revisiting of some of their early season struggles, they exacted a measure of payback by winning game three against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 4-0 and taking the series 2-1.
Moving to 14-13 in Conference USA play, Owl pitchers bent but never broke as they allowed nine Blue Raider hits, but no runs. Rice head coach Wayne Graham found some amusement in the unusual box score.
“A nine hit shutout?” Graham asked of no one in particular after the game. “How’s that? But a win is a win.”
The Owls collected one less hit than Middle Tennessee, but went ahead on a pair of two RBI hits from right fielder Charlie Warren and shortstop Ford Proctor.
“We’ve got a lot of determined people,” said Graham. “Especially on this coaching staff. They don’t want to lose, so there going to do everything humanly possible to win. And they did.”
The Rice’s four runs came in pairs in the second and third innings. While not the major model of an offensive outburst, was what the Owls needed.
“I guess the team is just coming together,” said Charlie Warren, who was 1-4 with two RBI. “We know we’re all athletic and have the ability to do stuff well. We’re all just putting it together, finally.”
For Middle Tennessee, reliever Devin Conn outshone starter Jake Wyrick. Conn, in relief, pitched five innings, struck out seven, and allowed only one hit and one walk. With the Owls already ahead and the Blue Raider offense unable to push through, Conn’s effort amounted to no more than a quality relief appearance.
Needing a win to stay afloat in the logjam of Conference USA standings, the Owls did just that.
“I just think we’ve learned from our mistakes early on in the year and put all that behind us and bounced back from it,” said shortstop Ford Proctor who went 1-4 with two RBI.”At this point every game is a must win. We don’t want to put our destiny in someone else’s hands. We want to take it upon ourselves, and we’ve been having to fight for survival.”