Rice Holds On for 4-3 Win over ODU, advances to C-USA Tournament - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Rice Holds On for 4-3 Win over ODU, advances to C-USA Tournament Semifinal

Rice head coach Wayne Graham Rice head coach Wayne Graham
BILOXI, MS (C-USA) -

Over the years, Rice has earned a reputation for winning close baseball games, and Coach Wayne Graham said the reason for that was very simple.

“Well, if you’ve got good relief pitching, you look real smart,” Graham said shortly after watching his closer, Glenn Otto, surrender only a walk over the final 3 1/3 innings of Rice’s 4-3 victory over Old Dominion Thursday in the second round of The First, A National Banking Association, Conference USA Championship.

“That’s the name of that game, all the way up to the major leagues. Good relief pitching, and you look like you can make all the right moves.”

The move gave the sixth-seeded Owls (29-29) a day off Friday and moved them straight into Saturday’s 9 a.m. semifinal game. Rice will take on the survivor of Friday’s 3 p.m. elimination game between second-seeded ODU (37-20) and third-seeded Florida Atlantic (34-20-1).

One win would put Rice into its ninth C-USA baseball championship game. Should Rice fall, the teams would play a second time at 4 p.m. for a spot in Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game.

Rice first baseman Darryn Sheppard drove in a pair of runs, including what proved to be the deciding run with a RBI-single in the fifth inning.

But Otto (4-3) proved stifling, starting by stranding runners at second and third on a flyball to end the sixth inning.

“Glenn Otto was the difference,” Graham said. “Obviously, he was the difference.”

ODU coach Chris Finwood agreed.

“Otto was a big-leaguer out there (Thursday night),” Finwood said. “I told our guys I couldn’t him. He was on, and when he’s throwing the ball like that, he’s going to be tough.”

The game sported some warts. Rice committed four errors and its pitchers committed two balks. Finwood said a missed cutoff man cost ODU two runs in Rice’s three-run, third inning and still was ove his head over a runner interference play at the plate that ended a Monarch rally in the fifth inning.

“We had a tough call at the plate that would have tied it up (3-3), and we gave them two runs in the inning they got three,” Finwood said. “We’ve been really good, fundamentally, most of the year, but that really cost us.”

Center fielder Ryan Chandler had two of Rice’s seven hits, while ODU second baseman Jared Young led the Monarchs with two hits.

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