The Rice bullpen did what they've been doing all season, retiring the last 15 Houston batters as the Owls won their first Conference USA Tournament 11-5 and locked up their eleventh straight automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
With "Running on Empty" blaring from the stadium speakers, Clayton Boone entered the game with Houston trailing 6-5 with no outs and the bases loaded. When he left four batters later, only one out had been recorded and the Owl lead had ballooned to 10-5 after six innings.
Rice answered Houston's three run fourth with three runs of their own to cut the deficit to one run, then turned two beautiful plays in the outfield to preserve the lead ... halfway through, Houston clinging to a 5-4 lead.
They might not be in the majority, but the Cougar fans have had more to cheer about so far in this championship game. Houston adds three runs in the fourth to force Joe Savery from the game and grab a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
For twenty-four years, the Rice Owls and Houston Cougars slugged it out as members of the Southwest Conference. After nine years of going their separate ways, the intracity rivals will matchup in the Conference USA Championship game.
Memphis made a game of it in the middle innings, but the Rice bullpen slammed the door down the stretch as the Owls advance to the C-USA championship game with a 7-4 victory over a scrappy Tiger club on Saturday afternoon.
Luis Flores threw a three-hit shutout Saturday morning to send the Houston Cougars into the championship game of the C-USA Tournament. Houston controlled the game from the beginning, and improves to 39-19 with their 6-0 over Tulane.
Back to an early morning start at Reckling Park, where the #2 seed Houston Cougars and the #3 seed Tulane Green Wave will get underway shortly. After that, the top seeded Rice Owls will take on the fourth seeded Memphis Tigers.
On a day when I came to the ballpark expecting a slugfest, the pitchers have stolen the stage early on Friday. Both Tulane and East Carolina have had chances, but after six innings the score is tied 1-1.
After two straight early morning starts, day three of the C-USA Tournament gets underway at 3:00 this afternoon. Billy Mohl (8-0, 4.15) will take an undefeated record to the mound for Tulane, while East Carolina counters with Shane Mathews (5-3, 5.14)
Rice and Houston are four miles apart, and tomorrow they'll share another trait -- both teams will have the day off due to their victories on Thursday. Houston defeated East Carolina 7-1 in the afternoon, and Rice downed Southern Miss 5-1 in the nightcap.
We're through 1 1/2 innings in the nightcap at Reckling Park, and only the Rice Owls have been been able to capitalize on leadoff hits in each inning. First-seeded Rice netted three runs in the top of the second to take a 3-0 lead over Southern Miss.
Today is Brad Lincoln's birthday, and he celebrated in style with his 11th straight victory to knock East Carolina into the losers' bracket. After the Cougars broke open a close game in the fifth inning, they cruised to 7-1 victory over the Pirates.
Brad Lincoln might have been the best pitcher in C-USA during the regular season, but through 4 innings Dustin Sasser has matched the Clemens Award semifinalist pitch-for-pitch. Unfortunately, Sasser tendency to yield the big inning took over in the fifth and Houston rallied for the lead.
After two high-scoring affairs on Thursday at the C-USA Tournament, pitching is set to take the stage in the winners' bracket contest between #2 Houston and #6 East Carolina. The Pirates drew first blood, and after two innings lead the Cougars 1-0.
Blazer starter Jim Crew already had the most wild pitches in C-USA, entering today's elimination game against Memphis with 16 on the season. He added two more to his collection in the first inning, and with the help of two UAB errors the Tigers scored three runs in the initial frame to claim an early lead.
Trey Sutton doubled on the first pitch of the game, and three pitches later he scored on a Marc Maddox single and the Golden Eagles were off to the races. Maddox came around to score the second run of the game, and the Golden Eagles lead 2-0 after 2 innings.
Jacob Legg walked five Owl batters, and every one of them came around to score. Eddie Degerman walked a career high seven Blazers, but only two touched the pay-station. That was the difference, as the top seed Rice Owls defeated the #8 seed UAB Blazers 9-3 on Wednesday afternoon.
After being held in check for the first six innings, Houston battered the Marshall bullpen over the final two innings to claim a 9-1 victory game two of the Conference USA Tournament. The Cougars will play East Carolina in a winners' bracket game tomorrow at 4:00, while Marshall and Tulane will meet in a win-or-go-home battle at 9:00 am.
It's late May in Houston, so it was already hot and humid when the first pitch was thrown at 9:00 this morning. The heavy air and strong pitching matchup are conducive to a low-scoring affair, and so far things have held true to form.
For the second time in three seasons, the Conference USA baseball tournament is coming to Houston. This time, the teams are converging on Reckling Park, home of the regular season champion Rice Owls. Play gets underway at 9:00 Wednesday morning, as eight schools vie for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
CUSA: Tournament Seedings on the Line as Regular Season Concludes
The Conference USA schedule shifts to Thursday through Saturday this weekend as the teams prepare for the conference tournament at Rice's Reckling Park starting next Wednesday. The top three seeds are already wrapped up, but the last weekend will break the 3-way tie for fourth and settle the scrum for the last two playoff spots.