Memphis Rallies Past No. 4 Rice; Clinches Spot in C-USA Championship Game
May 24, 2012
PEARL, Miss. - Timely hitting by freshmen and a two-out RBI single by T.J. Rich rallied Memphis (31-26) past No. 4 Rice (40-16) 3-2 on Thursday at the Conference USA Championship presented by Trustmark. With the win, the Tigers clinch a spot in the C-USA Championship game at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Trustmark Park.
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh, freshmen Bryce Beeler and Keaton Aldridge recorded RBI in the inning to knot the score at 2-2. Derrick Thomas reached on an error to start the inning and a hit-and-run allowed him to advance to second on grounder to first. Beeler singled to left to drive in Thomas and he stole second to move to scoring position. Aldridge came through with the clutch two-out double to right center to tie the game at 2-2.
Back-to-back two-out singles by Eli Hynes and Derrick Thomas set up T.J. Rich with an opportunity to drive in the winning run and he did just that as he drilled a single to left-center to drive in pinch-runner Zac Carter. With Carter crossing the plate, the Tigers clinched a spot in their first C-USA Championship game and first appearance in a conference tournament title game since the 1995 Great Midwest Tournament.
Memphis erased a leadoff double in the top of the eighth to keep the teams even at 2-2. J.T. Chargois started the inning with a double to the left field corner, but Memphis starter Dan Langfield recorded his seventh strikeout of the night to put one out on the board. Craig Manuel laced a liner to left that centerfielder Ford Wilson tracked down and relayed in to second base for the inning-ending double play.
Rice jumped out to an early lead as the Owls posted two runs before the Tigers posted an out. A leadoff walk to Ford Stainback proved to be the first run as he scored on a double down the right field line that was misplayed in the corner. Christian Stringer, who roped the double, moved to third on the error and scored on a RBI single through the left side by Chargois.
The Tigers didn't move a runner to scoring position until the fourth inning. Eli Hynes ripped a single through the left side with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Rice starter Austin Kubitza stranded Hynes as second as he struck out T.J. Rich to end the inning.
Hynes and Aldridge led the offense with two hits each and Memphis edged the Owls 8-7 in the hit column. Langfield (7-6) picked up the win as he pitched eight innings and allowed two runs on six hits. Jonathan Van Eaton earned his eighth save of the season as he allowed one hit in the ninth before closing it out.
The win over No. 4 Rice improved the Tigers record to 4-3 against top-10 opponents, the most in any season in program history. Overall, Memphis is 6-8 against the top-25 this season, most wins against top-25 opponents since 1982 when the club went 6-3. Memphis battles Houston on Friday at 7 p.m. before playing the C-USA Championship game on Sunday at 1 p.m.