BILOXI, Miss. -- A few key plays went in favor of the Rice Owls and Old Dominion dropped a 4-3 nail-biter to Rice in the second round of the Conference USA Tournament on Thursday afternoon at MGM Park.
“I thought it was a great game," said head coach Chris Finwood. "We had a tough call there at the plate that would have tied it up and then we gave them a couple runs by missing the cut-off man in the inning that they got three, but you know in close games like that those things show up."
Old Dominion (37-20) struck first, taking a 1-0 lead on Nick Walker's second inning sac fly. Then, in a turning point in the third, Vinnie Pasquantino clubbed an opposite field shot to left field, but Rice's left fielder Dayne Wunderlich reached over the wall to rob Pasquantino for what would have been a two-run homer.
Rice (29-29) then scored three runs in the bottom of the frame to take a 3-1 lead, an advantage that the Owls would not relinquish.
The Monarchs threatened in the top of the fifth, scoring a run on a balk. Culver Lamb then nearly scored the game-tying run, as he attempted to score from secon on an error, but was called out at the plate due to interference.
ODU starting pitcher Adam Bainbridge kept the Monarchs within striking distance, battling through six innings of work. The senior lefty tied a career high with eight strikeouts, while allowing four runs, three earned, on seven hits.
“I thought we battled out there. Bainbridge battled for us and gave us what we needed and then [Craig] Lopez came in and did a good job out of the bullpen," said Finwood. "They gave us a chance and we just couldn't get that big hit."
Following Bainbridge's departure after six, Craig Lopez threw two innings of perfect relief.
Pasquantino's RBI single in the sixth pulled the Monarchs within one at 4-3, but Rice's go-to bullpen arm Glenn Otto tossed 3.1 innings of no-hit ball to secure the win for Rice.
"I think the difference in the game was that Otto was a big leaguer out there tonight," said Finwood. "I told our guys that I sure couldn't have hit him. When he's throwing the ball like that he's going to be tough.”
With the loss, Old Dominion will play Florida Atlantic tomorrow in an elimination game at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN3 and STAR 1310. Looking towards tomorrow, Finwood stressed an emphasis on timely hitting.
“Just get some big hits," said Finwood about the key to tomorrow's elimination game against FAU. "Every run is going to big in a game like that.”
View the complete results from day two of the C-USA Championship at ConferenceUSA.com.
GAME NOTES Rice now leads the all-time series, 7-5 ... ODU swept Rice in Norfolk during the opening weekend of C-USA play in March ... Old Dominion moves to 3-7 all time in the C-USA Tournament ... Adam Bainbridge tied his career high today with eight strikeouts ... Jared Young extended his reached-base streak to 31 games and hitting streak to 10 games ... ODU is now 11-4 in one-run games.
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