RUSTON, La. – Matt Miller tossed seven innings, giving up just one run, while the offense cranked out 13 hits, including a season-best three home runs, en route to an 8-2 win over the Rice Owls in front of a crowd of 1,906 from J.C. Love Field.
“I thought offensively we had a great plan,” head coach Lane Burroughs said. “Coach (Travis) Creel put together another great plan against a really good arm in Canterino. We knew he was going to get his strikeouts, but we worked deep into counts, and wore him down. I liked how we hustled on the basepaths, and those kind of things help you win ballgames. I thought Rice did well against Miller. I thought he threw the ball well overall. His velocity was good, and he worked around a tough lineup tonight. I’m proud of our guys, and I thought we played really hard and with a lot of energy and passion tonight.”
Tech (13-6, 1-0 C-USA) began Conference USA play on the right foot behind its Friday-night ace in Miller. The junior transfer improved his record to 3-0, and kept his season ERA under one, at 0.84. In four starts, Miller has allowed just three earned runs while striking out a team-best 34 hitters, and walking just five.
The Tech bats also showed up in a big way, giving Miller some much-needed early run support. In the bottom of the first inning, Hunter Wells drove a leadoff double into center. Shortstop Dalton Skelton then took a 2-2 fastball on the inner half of the plate, and deposited it deep over the right-field wall. With the two-run blast, Skelton extended his team-best hitting streak to eleven games, and gave Tech an early 2-0 lead over Rice’s (9-11, 0-1, C-USA) Friday-night ace, Matt Canterino (1-3).
Canterino, who became visibly frustrated in the first inning, made it through only four innings, giving up nine hits and six earned runs.
After giving up a little infield single in the first, Miller got on a roll, retiring the next 10 batters he faced.
Tech would tack on another run in the third, after Skelton drove a one-out double into right. Parker Bates then singled, moving Skelton to third, and then Tanner Huddleston came through with a big RBI double into left, giving Tech a 3-0 lead.
In the fourth, Mason Mallard got the frame going with a bang on a no-doubt solo home run deep into lef field, his second bomb of the season. Taylor Young then worked a patient seven-pitch walk, and moved to second on a single to left from Wells. With runners on first and second and two outs, Bates joined the RBI party with a two-RBI double on a fly ball that died in front of the diving Rice centerfielder Ryan Chandler, which gave Tech a 6-0 lead.
Miller made it through the fifth and the sixth with little trouble, before the Owls notched their first run of the ballgame on a leadoff home run from shortstop Ford Proctor. The blast was Miller’s first home run given up all season. However, Miller bounced back and retired the next three batters, ending his evening with seven strong innings.
In the eighth, Ben Schragger entered in relief for the Owls, and was greeted by a leadoff home run from Logan Bailey – a no-doubter, giving Tech a 7-1 lead. Later on, Young would notch his fifth RBI on the year on an RBI fielder’s choice to short.
Sophomore Tyler Follis pitched the final two innings for the Bulldogs, giving up a run on a pair of hits, while walking one and striking out three.
As a whole, five Bulldogs secured multiple-hit games (Wells, 2-for-5, Skelton, 2-for-5, Bates, 2-for-4, Chris Clayton, 2-for-4, and Mason Robinson, 2-for-4).
The two teams return to the diamond for a double-header tomorrow, getting rolling at 1 p.m. Tech is slated to start Logan Robbins (3-0, 1.48 ERA) and Bailey (2-1, 1.64 ERA), while Rice is projected to go with Kendall Jeffries (1-0, 3.60 ERA) and Roel Garcia (2-0, 2.38 ERA).
All Tech home games are also streamed live on CUSA.tv (subscription required). Be sure to stay plugged into LATechSports.com, and follow @LATechBSB on Twitter for in-game updates and breaking news on the Diamond Dogs.