By Nick Griesbach//Contributing Writer
HOUSTON –In a matchup of the top two teams in Conference USA, Middle Tennessee failed to get timely hits in a 7-2 loss Friday to No. 14 Rice.
This was the opening game of a three-game series at Reckling Park in Houston. With the loss, the Blue Raiders (16-12, 8-2 C-USA) now hold just a one-half game lead in the Conference USA standings over the Owls (21-11, 10-3 C-USA).
Starter Johnathon Frebis (4-3) was saddled with the loss Friday, allowing 10 hits and all seven of the Owls’ runs. The Owls’ Kevin McCanna (4-2) got the win as he was able to strike out six batters in 7.2 innings, surrendering nine hits and two runs.
The Blue Raiders were able to have some bright spots offensively as right fielder Brad Jarreau was able to hit a solo homer in the top of the fifth inning, which was the first of his career. MTSU was unable to capitalize on several scoring opportunities, including having the bases loaded in the third inning with no outs. MTSU was unable to plate any of these baserunners.
“We hit the ball and had our chances but we just couldn’t get timely hits,” Middle Tennessee Head Coach Jim McGuire said to MTSU’s athletic communications department. “You have to capitalize on your opportunities when you have them against a team like Rice and we didn’t do that in this opening game.”
The Blue Raiders gained a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Dustin Delgado started the game with a double. He then went on to score on an error by third baseman Grayson Lewis who was unable to make a play on a Robbie Jebavy hit.
The Blue Raiders were only down 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, but the Owls were able to respond with four runs that were too much for the Blue Raiders.
Rice’s catcher Hunter Kopycinski was able to score when second baseman Ford Stainback hit a triple. Stainback was able to come across home plate on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Leon Byrd. Left fielder Kirby Taylor singled, and Lewis doubled to put themselves in scoring position, and both dashed home on right fielder Charlie Warren’s double to left field that put the Owls lead to 7-2. MTSU had no comeback for Rice, and the Owls were able to finish off the win, taking the opener of this crucial three-game series.
Middle Tennessee will look to even the series up Saturday. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. CST.
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