Here's a little note for you Rice Owl baseball fans who like to post on the message boards. Coach Wayne Graham likes to read your little postings. But here's the thing, he doesn't always agree with what you write. And he's hoping that, after last night's 16-9 win over the TSU Tigers, you'll finally understand why he started J.T. Chargois.
"I noted on our message boards that some people questioned the starting of J.T. Chargois," Graham said after the game. "And I also note what he did compared to the rest of the people we put out there. For those who criticized that move."
What Chargois did, in his first start of the year, was pitch five innings of no-run baseball. He held TSU scoreless while throwing only 69 pitches, giving up only three hits, and walking no one (he did hit two batters, however). The rest of the Rice pitching staff last night wasn't so accomplished, especially the four poor souls who pitched the eighth and ninth innings, Doug Simmons, Holt McNair, Matt Evers, and Tyler Duffey.
The four surrendered nine runs, seven hits, and four walks as they turned what had been a 13-0 laugher into a 16-9 thriller that saw TSU (23-21) making the Rice (28-16) coaches, players, and faithful in the stands sweat on an otherwise calm night of near non-humidity.
"I think this was the longest game I've ever been a part of," said shortstop Rick Hague.
Hague was one of Rice's many hitting stars for the night, finishing two-for-five with a walk, two runs, and three RBI. And it was Hague who finally got the final out of the game, having to charge a dribbler hit by TSU's Andrew Garza and barely getting the throw to Rice first baseman Jimmy Comerota in time.
"We just wanted to get that last out," he said. "It seemed like we couldn't get these guys out late in the game. They kept battling, but I was glad to help the team and get that last out."
The win, the second in two nights by Rice (they defeated Texas State 16-2 on Tuesday), gives Rice a five-game winning streak, and they've won 11 of their last 13 games. They've yet to win six in a row this season (they've done five in a row four times), and this weekend just might be the most opportune time for the Owls to get that sixth in a row for they're heading out to West Virginia to take on C-USA foe Marshall, who is tied for second in the conference.
The Owls, at 11-4 in conference, have a four-game advantage on Marshall, 10-8 in conference, in the lost column, but they're only one up in the win column. And getting the wins in Marshall this weekend will not only cement Rice's lead in the conference, but will let them soar away from their competition, something that not many imagined was possible when Memphis won two of three over Rice to start conference play, leaving Rice at 13-12.
"We're going to their place," Hague said. "So we just want to come out early, score some runs, kind of get on top of them. They have a tough team this year, so we'll be ready for them."
Rice, as always, has the pitching advantage coming into the Marshall series, allowing nearly three runs less a game than the Thundering Herd. But Graham says the key is going to be the Owls ability to hit. Something they've been doing a lot of this past month. But just as important will be the pitching.
"We need to continue to hit," he says. "There could be -- it has a lot to do with conditions at Marshall. If the wind's blowing out, they really go. But you know, it's always how well we pitch probably more than anything else because you figure we're going to swing fairly well, and it's going to be how we pitch."
Should the Owls handle Marshall this weekend, then they appear to be primed to win the conference and move on through the C-USA Tournament and into the NCAA Regionals in June. The Owls definitely have the bats, and for the past month, they've been hitting everybody in sight. The key will be the pitching, and after last night, Graham's hoping Chargois will be ready to join Taylor Wall and Mike Ojala in a starting rotation that has been good, but not great, and has been that one thing the team's been lacking this season.
"He's got really good stuff. That's the reason I put him out there. Because we're looking for pitching, and he's got an arm. A good one."
All three games with Marshall (21-24) will be day games, with Friday and Saturday set to start at 1:05 p.m. and Sunday's game starting at 9:35 a.m.