Two cross-town rivals met at Cougar Field in their second meeting of the season on Wednesday night. The visiting Rice Owls once again got the best of the Houston Cougars, behind a stellar performance at the plate from freshman third baseman Anthony Rendon. Rendon finished the night with four hits in five plate appearances, including a two-run homerun to put the game out of reach late.
The Owls jumped out on top with a single run in the top of the third. Brock Holt lead off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pickoff attempt by Houston starting pitcher Mo Wiley. Rick Hague would then single up the middle, scoring Holt from second. The lead would be extended in the top of the fourth inning. Rice designated hitter Craig Manuel hit a hard groundball single off the leg of Wiley, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Jimmy Comerota then laced an RBI-single to left field and advanced to second on the throw to the plate. Holt would then drive Comerota home with a single on the ground to right field to make the score 3-0 in favor of the Owls.
Houston would respond in the bottom of the fourth inning. After pitching three innings of two-hit shutout baseball, Rice starting pitcher Mark Haynes was pulled in favor of Abe Gonzales. Caleb Ramsey welcomed Gonzales to the game with a leadoff double down the left field line. A throwing error by Holt on a William Kankel groundball allowed Ramsey to come around and score Houston’s first run of the game.
Houston threatened to cut Rice’s lead again in the bottom of the sixth inning. Houston had runners on second and third with one out when Rice called on freshman pitcher Andrew Benak to relieve Jared Rogers after an inning of work on the mound. Benak would issue a free pass to pinch hitter Matt Murphy before inducing a double play groundout to end the inning and the threat.
That would be the last of the offensive threats from the Cougars on the night, and Rice would go to work on extending the lead. The Owls added a run in the seventh when Rendon collected an RBI-single following a Chad Mozingo leadoff double. The major damage followed in the eighth. The four run inning, highlighted by Rendon’s two run homer, extended the lead to 8-1 in favor of Rice. That would be the final, as Rice reliever Matt Evers pitched two shutout innings to close the door on Houston.
Gonzales picked up the win for the Owls, working one and a third innings while allowing two hits and one unearned run. Taking the loss for the Cougars was Wiley, as he allowed three runs on seven hits over three and two thirds innings.
Houston head coach Rayner Noble was asked of his team’s performance and said, “Usually the formula for success is pitching and defense. Tonight we pitched honorably and didn’t get the defense.” Rice head coach Wayne Graham praised his offense’s performance saying, “We had fifteen hits tonight, and I’m glad we had some clutch hits.”
Rice improved to 12-5 on the season, and will start Conference USA play this weekend with a series at Southern Miss beginning Friday. Houston fell to 4-15 on the year and will also being Conference USA play when they host UAB at Cougar Field starting Friday night.