No. 9 Rice completed a series sweep of the Marshall baseball team on Sunday at Appalachian Power Park as the Owls narrowly defeated the Thundering Herd 3-1.
With the win and the sweep, Rice moved to first place by itself in Conference USA standings at 27-11 (9-3 C-USA), pending the completion of other games around the league later this afternoon. Marshall fell to 13-22 overall and 1-8 in conference action.
The Herd lost each of the last eight conference games, including back-to-back series sweeps by Memphis and Rice.
Freshman Lance Elder (1-3) threw a career high six innings for the Herd, matched his career high of four strikeouts, walked none, and allowed just two runs in the loss. Elder surrendered a run in the third when Rice recorded back-to-back two out hits to drive in Chase McDowell. In the sixth, the right-hander gave up a bomb to Jeremy Rathjen.
In the meantime, the Herd offense could not provide Elder with any run support as Sergio Leon’s single in the first was the team’s only base hit through the first five innings. Isaac Ballou ended that streak in the sixth when he beat out an infield single, then Leon followed by doubling Ballou over to third with one out. The inning ended with them stranded at second and third.
In all, the Herd left six runners on base – four of which were left in scoring position – for the game.
Rice starter Andrew Benak (5-1) took the win after going 6.1 innings, allowing four hits and no walks, and striking out nine.
The Herd was able to cut the lead in half in the eighth when Ballou and Leon provided some more theatrics against Rice reliever J.T. Chargois. Ballou led the inning off with his 14th career triple when he smashed a high fastball off the wall in straight-away center field. Leon succeeded with an RBI sacrifice bunt that he placed down the first base line.
Joe Church added solid relief of Elder, striking out three in two perfect innings.
In the ninth, Rice added to its lead with an RBI double from Ryan Lewis that scored Chargois from second.
Ballou and Leon each went 2-for-3 with a single and a sacrifice. Ballou had a run scored, and Leon had an RBI. Nathan Gomez and Thor Meeks – each of which went 1-for-4 – were the only others to reach base via a base hit.