Rice scored twice in the top of the seventh to rebound from an early deficit to lead the Owls to a 3-2 victory over Southern Miss here Saturday afternoon at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field to capture the weekend Conference USA series.
The Golden Eagles (25-19 overall, 13-7 C-USA) lost its first series in seven sets this season and will have a chance to take the final game of the series, Sunday, in a scheduled 1 p.m. start.
Rice starting pitcher Blake Fox improved to 9-0 for the Owls as he allowed two runs on eight hits with a pair of walks and three strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings to capture the victory. Trevor Teykl retired the final seven Golden Eagles, with two strikeouts, to earn his third save.
"Offensively, it was the second day in a row I just don't feel like we competed very well," said Southern Miss coach Scott Berry. "It was a different kind of pitcher on the mound today but we had ample time to adjust to it. Hats off to Fox, though, he knows how to pitch and pitched himself out of trouble. We didn't seize on opportunities when we had them."
The Golden Eagles left at least one runner on in each of the first seven innings, stranding 10 for the game.
Southern Miss did open the game's scoring in the bottom of the first. Breck Kline, who finished the game with two of the Golden Eagle eight hits, registered an infield single to start the frame. After Michael Sterling was hit by a pitch for a team season-high 15th time, Tim Lynch advanced the runners on a sacrifice bunt. Matt Durst then drove in the run on a sacrifice fly.
Down 1-0, the Owls tied the game with a solo run in the sixth. Keenan Cook, who had two hits, notched a triple to centerfield, before tying the score one hitter later on a Charlie Warren single to center.
Rice (31-14, 18-5) added two more runs in the seventh to take the lead for good. Chase McDowell doubled off the top of the right-centerfield wall to start the frame. Shane Hoelscher, who added a pair of singles, notched a hit to the pitcher on a bunt that put runners on the corners. McDowell then scored on a wild pitch from reliever Jake Winston before Ford Stainback's safety squeeze bunt plated Hoelscher to give the visitors a 3-1 advantage.
Durst added his second sacrifice fly in the bottom of the frame, scoring Sterling, but the Golden Eagles could not tie the score.
Golden Eagle starter Christian Talley (3-3) suffered the loss for the Golden Eagles by giving up two runs on seven hits and punched out seven Owls with no walks over six-plus innings.
The league-leading Owls improved their advantage in conference play to three and a half games over the second place Golden Eagles.