Feb. 21, 2014
HOUSTON -- Purdue baseball got another strong effort from its bullpen with seven innings of two-run ball, but the Boilers could not cash in on their scoring chances against No. 11 Rice's top two pitchers in a 3-1 series-opening loss Friday afternoon.
Purdue (0-4) tied the game at 1-1 on a two-out RBI single from Conner Hudnall in the top of the sixth inning, but the Owls came back with two in the bottom of the frame to take the lead for good.
With Rice (4-2) closer Zech Lemond on the mound, the Boilers brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the eighth and had the potential tying run up in the ninth. Purdue also had four base runners in the top of the third but failed to score, leaving the bases loaded.
Gavin Downs (0-1) gave the Boilers another quality extended relief outing, working five innings of two-run ball. He didn't give up a run until the bottom of the sixth when the Owls capitalized on a leadoff walk. A double to left field by John Clay Reeves plated the go-ahead run.
Kyle Wood played a solid game at first base defensively and also came through with a hustle double that led to Purdue's only run. Some solid base running and nifty slides allowed Wood to be safe at second after hitting a hump back line drive into left center and later score from second on Hudnall's single up the middle.
Rice's ace right-hander Jordan Stephens (2-0) seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. He pitched his way into a jam by issuing two walks and hitting Cody Strong with a pitch in the third inning, but got out of it by retiring Wood on a fly ball down the left field line. The junior went on to retire nine consecutive batters until Wood came up again and doubled in the sixth. Stephens struck out seven over his seven innings of five-hit ball.
Wood was hit by a pitch and Hudnall singled to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in the eighth. But Lemond struck out Kyle Johnson to end the frame. Ted Snidanko singled against the preseason All-American an inning later but did not advance past first base.
Johnson made the top defensive play of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a leaping catch in front of the warning track in center field on a ball that was hit directly over his head by Rice slugger Skyler Ewing. The reigning National Hitter of the Week was held without a hit for the first time this season.
Purdue intentionally walked Ewing with a man on third and one out in the seventh. Joe Eichmann made the strategy pay off by retiring the Owls' No. 4 and 5 hitters to escape the jam and keep it a 3-1 game. Mike Lutz worked a 1-2-3 eighth in his third scoreless relief outing of the young season.
Patrick Kenney gave up two singles and two walks while facing seven batters in his first collegiate start. He pitched out of a first-inning jam by retiring the No. 4 and 5 hitters with two men aboard. But he was lifted in favor of Downs after the first two batters reached an inning later. A sacrifice fly from No. 9 hitter Connor Teykl in the bottom of the second plated Rice's first run of the night.
Kenney was not expected to pitch deep in the game, but the Purdue bullpen was still asked to cover over 20-plus outs for the third game in a row.
Steve Maniago joined Hudnall as Boilers with a pair of hits, singling in the third and seventh innings. Maniago was thrown out trying to take second base on a ball in the dirt in the top of the third. The out on the bases paths hurt more after Stephens issued free passes to the next three hitters.
Game two of the series is set for Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.