Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Big First Inning Too Much To Overcome
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: March 13, 2012
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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March 13, 2012

Rice 5, Arizona 1 (Box Score)

HOUSTON, Texas - A four-run first inning spotted to host Rice proved costly for the No. 6 Arizona baseball team, which saw an eight-game winning streak snapped by the Owls on Tuesday evening at Reckling Park.

Eighth-ranked Rice (13-4) scored four times in the first inning and added a solo home run by Jeremy Rathjen in the third to take a 5-0 lead. The Owls held Arizona (13-3) scoreless over the first seven innings, before the Wildcats tacked on a single run in the top of the eighth to set the score at its final, 5-1.

In the first inning, the Owls did what Arizona was unable to do all game long: string hits together. Rice sent nine men to the plate and scored four runs on five hits off starter Lucas Long. Michael Ratteree and Rathjen delivered run-scoring doubles, J.T. Chargois singled in another run, and Shane Hoelscher collected an RBI on a fielder's choice.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats put runners on base throughout the game and even out-hit the Owls 9-8, but were unable to mount a serious rally. Arizona left nine runners on base in the game, and was just 1-for-12 hitting with runners in scoring position.

Arizona finally scratched a run across in the eighth inning on its only base hit with a runner in scoring position. Seth Mejias-Brean, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, drove in Alex Mejia for the Wildcats only run of the game with two outs in the eighth. Mejia was 3-for-4 at the plate and his leadoff double in the sixth was the club's only extra base hits. Mejia never moved from second base, and the Wildcats left two runners on base.

An inning earlier, another scoring threat for the Wildcats was thwarted. With two outs in the fifth and Brandon Dixon on third base, Joey Rickard ripped an apparent double down the left field line that was ruled foul. Arizona coach Andy Lopez argued to no avail, and Rickard was put out on the next pitch when his line shot was snared by second baseman Christian Stringer, who made a leaping catch.

Long (2-10), despite the Rathjen homer in the third, settled down and pitched into the sixth inning to give the Wildcats some opportunities to claw back in the game. Long officially pitched five-plus innings and was charged for the five earned runs on seven hits as he suffered the loss.

Tyler Hale took over for Long in the sixth inning and recorded the final nine outs for the Wildcats. Hale registered three strikeouts and gave up just one base hit.

Andrew Benak (3-0) threw 5.2 innings of scoreless ball for the Owls to earn the victory. He scattered six hits, walked one and struck out one. He turned the game over to Taylor Wall with two outs and two runners on in the top of the sixth, but Wall induced an inning-ending groundout by Trent Gilbert.

Arizona will try to split the two-game mid-week series on Wednesday. The Wildcats will send junior left-hander Vincent Littleman to the mound, while the Owls have announced right-hander Zech Lemond as their starter. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. (CDT).

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