March 4, 2006
Houston, Tex. - For the second game in a row Josh Rodriguez was the hero, doubling with the bases loaded to break a 2-2 tie, as No. 4 Rice (13-2) defeated No. 7 Cal State Fullerton (9-6), 6-2, in game two of the three-game series at Reckling Park in Houston.
It was Rodriguez who, just the night before, hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth to hand the Titans a series opening loss, but it was his two-run double in the eighth that secured the series win for the hosting Owls. The Titans' starting pitcher Lauren Gagnier was credited with the loss, and dropped to 3-2 on the season, while Bobby Bell, working in relief of starter Joe Savery, picked up his third victory without a loss.
Again it was a pitcher's duel with starters Gagnier and Savery lasting at least seven innings, leaving their teams at a 2-2 stalemate heading into the eighth. But it was the Titans' Gagnier who came out for the eighth frame and surrendered back-to-back singles to Chad Lembeck and Tyler Henly setting up what proved to be a four-run inning.
Titan Head Coach George Horton elected to leave Gagnier in for one more batter after a trip to the mound, and Gagnier responded with a strikeout of Greg Buchanan leaving runners at first and second with one out. The right hander left the game after holding the Owls to just five hits (just three before the eighth), handing the ball to reliever Ryan Paul, just one pitch away from heading to the ninth.
Like five of his six appearances, Paul's time on the mound was short-lived, working to just one batter in a spot situation. This time he issued four straight balls to load the bases, still just a double-play away from ending the inning. Reliever Jeff Soulages came on to face Rodriguez who promptly drove in the game-winner with a blast to the right field wall. Adding insult to injury, the Owls scored twice more on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly by the next to batters, putting the Rice squad ahead for good at 6-2.
The Titans scrapped together six hits on the day including a second inning single to left that extended Justin Turner's hitting streak to 14 games, but none of which would directly lead to a Fullerton run. Jared Clark scored the first run on a wild pitch after getting aboard on a walk in the second inning, while Davis advanced home on a balk by Savery in the sixth to give the Titans a then-2-1 lead. But that was all. They threatened to score in the ninth off Rice closer Cole St. Clair with a one-out triple by Clark, but it was too late.
Both teams will report for the series finale tomorrow with an 11:00 a.m. PST first pitch. The Titans will send Dustin Miller (2-1, 5.00 ERA) to the mound in hope to salvage at least one game in Houston. Rice's pitcher has yet to be determined. Follow the game on Sunday by tuning to AM 1510 or by listening in on the web at fullertontitans.com.