Rice Pulls Rabbit Out of Hat, Beat PVAM in Ninth
J-Rod's Single Off Wall Wins It, 6-5
By Mark Anderson
The Panthers of Prairie View A & M tried to run by the Rice Owls in the opening game of the regional playoffs. They ran—boy did they run, stealing five bases and creating general havoc on the base paths. But in the end, it would be a base running play that would come back to haunt PVAM, as well as clutch hitting by the Owls, that would make the difference in this game.
Rice got on the board first in the second inning when Joe Savery singled, and Aaron Luna singled to move Savery to second. After Zornes sacrificed the runners to second and third, Jordan Dodson stepped up and drove in Joe Savery on a single to make the score 1-0, Rice.
That advantage was short-lived. With one out, White was hit by a Craig Crow pitch. He immediately stole second. That was followed by walks to Lester and Richard, loading the bases. Edwards stroked a single to right field which scored both White and Lester. That brought Christal to the plate for the Panthers. As fast as you could say, ‘"wow," Christal drove a Craig Crow offering over the right field wall to make the score 5-1, PVAM.
The Owls answered in the bottom of the third with two runs of their own when Tyler Henley led off with a walk. After Buchanan flied out for the first out of the inning, Brian Friday stepped to the plate, and drilled a 1-1 pitch over the stands in left to make the score 5-3.
Thanks to great relief pitching by Bobby Bell, that would be the way the game would stay until the eighth inning. In the top of the eighth, the Panther base running would come back to haunt them. Shorter led off with a single, and Whiteby singl;ed deep to short. Oscar Goldman attempted a bunt, and Bobby Bell fell down attempting to field the ball to load the bases. That brought up White, who had already stolen two bases on the afternoon. Friday quickly fielded the grounder and threw home to force Shorter. Danny Lehmann, who had replaced Adam Zornes in the lineup, threw to first in an attempt to get White. The ball struck White—and Danny Lehmann went nuts, arguing that White had interfered on the play. After the umpires had a brief conference, White was declared out on interference.
Clearly, this play was the one that gave momentum to Rice. PVAM head coach Michael Robertson said later, "The key was that critical call by the first base umpire in the eighth. I’ve been in the game a long time, but I believe interference is the home plate umpire’s call. The exact words he told me was that he purposely saw the guy run inside the baseline.” Coach Graham said about the play, “They caught a bad break on the interference call, but there was no question it was the right call.”
Rice had the momentum, and they used it to their advantage in the bottom of the eighth. Joe Savery led off the inning with a walk, and Aaron Luna stepped to the plate. Aaron said afterwards that many of Rice’s hitters were coming in the dugout talking about the changeup being high. Aaron got one of those changeups, and drove it over the left field wall to tie the game. After Luna went to the dugout, Coach Graham went and gave Luna a high five. When asked about it after the game, Graham acknowledged this and told reporters, “From the sixth inning on, I was saying the Serendipity Prayer out there.”
Not only were Wayne Graham’s prayers answered, but also the prayers of the Rice faithful in the ninth inning. Tyler Henley walked to open the ninth, and a pitch hit Greg Buchanan. Friday laid down a bunt single, loading the bases with no outs for Rice. That brought up clean-up hitter Josh Rodriguez, who blasted a pitch off the wall for a walk-off single and the game winning RBI.
Because of the monsoon that forced the postponement of the Baylor-Arizona State game, Rice’s next game will be Sunday at 1 pm. The suspended game will resume Saturday at 4pm, followed by the loser’s elimination game afterwards.