Rice: Grandstand finish lifts Rice to 33 in a row

By Jonathan Yardley - February 18, 2007

Sorry I don't have many wisecracks or one-liners (rest assured the media guides here are much smaller than in the Stanford-UT series) but we had a surplus of quality pitching at Reckling Park this weekend and a grandstand finish to today's finale ...

With Rice leading 2-1, Ryne Tacker got the first two batters in the top of the ninth without incident but walked pinch hitter T.J. Middlestaedt. Pinch hitter Allen Woods then worked a full count and fouled off a pitch, just to heighten the drama. With Middlestaedt running on the pitch, Woods hit a flare into short center field. Rice’s Tyler Henley - who recorded three outfield assists in one game last year - sprinted in but could not get to the ball and fumbled it momentarily in short center. Long Beach State third base coach T.J. Bruce – the team’s volunteer assistant coach – waved the runner home, but Henley threw a strike to the plate to nail Middlestaedt and end the game and the series.

As mentioned earlier, Long Beach State was horrendous on the basepaths all weekend. The Dirtbags finished 1-5 stealing bases, were thrown out three times at home plate and hit into a triple play. The series victory was Rice's 33rd consecutive home series victory.

With his start a declared start, Joe Savery (who pitched, DH'd and finished the game at first base) earned the win to go to 2-0. Tacker ended up with a rare five-inning save, his second of the year, and probably turned in the most impressive performance of the day. The redshirt senior worked his fastball consistently 91-93 mph and showed good offspeed pitches as well. Tacker allowed just two hits in the five innings, striking out five and wakling two. His ERA stands at 0.55 in 16.1 innings of work. One wonders if Tacker might be making a bid for a spot in the weekend rotation.
Rice obviously has the pitching, but the offense remains a question mark, as the Owls’ batting average continues to hover just above the .200 mark. Still, Rice has been facing legit pitching just about every game and did take advantage of the weaker arms on the Long Beach staff.

On the Long Beach State side, the Dirtbags pitched well all weekend but fell just a little short in the series finale. Omar Arif pitched very well – again, two of the three hits were soft – but struggled with control at times, walking three and hitting one. If Long Beach State can find a consistent No. 2 starter in the absence of Manny McElroy and just a little more offense, the Dirtbags ought to be in good shape for Big West Conference play.

Posted by Jonathan Yardley at 04:49 PM on February 18, 2007

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