HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Shane Hoelscher had three hits and drove in three runs to lead nationally ranked Rice past Southern Miss 5-0 in a Conference USA series opener here Friday night at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field.
The Golden Eagles (25-18 overall, 13-6 C-USA) had a four-game winning streak snapped and were shutout for the second time this season. Connor Barron and Mason Robbins led the Golden Eagles with two hits each.
"We missed on our opportunities early," said Southern Miss coach Scott Berry. "We left three on over the first three innings against a good pitcher on a Friday night. We have got to do a better job and 12 strikeouts certainly doesn't put any pressure on anyone."
The game remained scoreless until the fourth when Rice took the lead for good with three runs. The Owls loaded the bases to open the frame on two singles and a hit by pitch, before Hoelscher drove in a pair of runs off Golden Eagle starter Conor Fisk on a double to left. Michael Aquino added an RBI single to complete the inning's scoring.
The league-leading Owls (30-14, 17-5) added another run in the fifth on a Hoelscher run-scoring single and then completed the scoring with a on RBI groundout by Charlie Warren in the eighth.
Along with leaving a runner stranded in the first, Southern Miss had two additional scoring inning opportunities as they got runners at first and second in the third with two outs and the bases loaded with two outs in the sixth but finished the night 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Kevin McCanna (5-2) scattered four hits over 5 2/3 and fanned eight, while walking one to get the victory over the Golden Eagles. Matt Ditman then limited the Eagles to one hit over the final 3 1/3 with four punchouts to register his seventh save of the campaign.
Fisk allowed four runs on 10 hits with a walk and four strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings to suffer the loss and fall to 4-2. The runs he gave up in the fourth ended a string of 12 innings without surrendering a run.
Game two of the series is set for 2 p.m., Saturday, at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field.