HATTIESBURG, MS—ODU sophomore P.J. Higgins scored from second on a throwing error in the bottom of the ninth as the Monarchs (36-23) defeated top seeded and No. 16 Rice (39-18) 3-2 in a Conference USA semifinal game at Pete Taylor Park. The two teams will play again at 5 p.m. (ET) today with the winner advancing to the Championship game tomorrow. Listen to the game live on STAR1310 AM with Ted Alexander providing the play-by-play.
Old Dominion Head Coach Chris Finwood
Opening statement“We were playing a great opponent and it was another a well-pitched, well-played, well-coached game. We pitched just good enough and got a break there in the bottom half of the ninth. It’s funny how baseball works. We hit a rocket to lead off the inning that gets caught that might have been a double, and a ball that doesn’t go 50 feet wins the game for us.”
On who stood out for the Monarchs “P.J. [Higgins] is an awfully good player for us and we ask a lot of him. He plays all over the field for us. He hits a slider up the middle. I thought Mike Perez was the hero for us today offensively. He just missed a home run in his first at-bat, has a big hit-and-run to move the runner into scoring position and keep that inning going.”
On the performance of the ODU bullpen “They’ve been our strength the whole year and today was no different. Dean [Ali] and Connor [Overton] did a good job and I thought Brett Harris gave us a real good start. We got a tough call there at second which leads to their first run. It was just another real good ballgame. It’s our fourth one-run game in a row and fortunately we’ve won three of them.”
On Old Dominion helping its chances of earning an at-large postseason bid“I don’t have a crystal ball I think the last couple of weeks may have put us in. Now we have a chance to play our way in, which is nice.”
Rice took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on an RBI single by Michael Aquino. ODU tied the game in the fifth on a solo homer by junior catcher Mike Perez which went over the leftfield fence. The Owls re-took the lead in the seventh when Leon Byrd led off with a triple and came home on a single by pinchhitter Kirby Taylor.
In the bottom of the seventh, PJ Higgins and Mike Perez had back-to-back hits and pinchhitter Kurt Sinnen singled home Higgins for a 2-2 tie.
In the ninth, Higgins and Perez got back-to-back hits with one out. Trevor Teykl came in to relieve Zech Lemond and after getting an out, Teykl’s throwing error on Tyler Urps grounder allowed Higgins to score and give the Monarchs the win over the Owls. ODU is now 2-2 against Rice this season.