HATTIESBURG, MS—Chase McDowell’s three-run double in the fifth helped lead the 16th ranked and top seeded Rice Owls (40-18) to a 7-5 victory over Old Dominion (36-24) in a Conference USA semifinal elimination game Saturday night at Pete Taylor Park. Rice advances to the league championship Sunday against the winner of the UTSA-Southern Miss contest. ODU forced the deciding game after beating the Owls earlier this morning 3-2.
CHRIS FINWOOD QUOTE-"Our guys sure fought hard,” Finwood said. “We had a couple of chances right there. We made them burn their best guy out of the bullpen for five innings. I was really proud of them. I told them they played like champions today. They deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament and I think they showed that this weekend. "I think we certainly handled ourselves this weekend. In my mind, and hopefully the selection committee’s mind, we played our way into the (NCAA) tournament.”
The Monarchs took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Junior rightfielder Taylor Ostrich singled home Nick Walker and Josh Eldridge’s sacrifice fly later plated Ostrich.
Leon Byrd singled home Skyler Ewing for Rice to make it 2-1 in the second, and in the third inning, Shane Hoelscher’s sacrifice fly scored Connor Teykl to tie the game at 2-2.
ODU regained the lead in the fourth as sophomore P.J. Higgins singled with two outs and scored all the way from first on a Rice throwing error on a pick-off attempt by starter Jon Duplantier.
The Owls scored four runs in the fifth to take the lead for good when with the bases loaded Chase McDowell doubled off the rightcenterfield wall to clear the bases and give Rice a 5-3 lead. John Clay Reeves followed with an RBI single to bring home McDowell for a 6-3 lead.
ODU, who went 3-2 in the Tournament added a run in the sixth and eighth innings, while Rice scored in the seventh when Skyler Ewing belted his eighth homerun of the season.
Taylor Ostrich led ODU with two hits on the day, while Ewing and Chase McDowell and Ford Stainback each had two hits for Rice. Matt Ditman pitched the last five innings in relief for Rice to pick up his fifth win of the season.
ODU senior reliever Brad Gero pitched the final four innings allowing just one run and striking out three. It was his ODU record 37th appearance. The Monarchs turned another double play today to its school mark of 65 which ranks 25th nationally.
The NCAA Baseball selection show will be Monday at 12 noon on ESPNU.