HOUSTON – Prairie View A&M coach Waskyla Cullivan said he and his team didn’t want to leave Reckling Park with another moral victory. However, the Panthers lost in a 3-2 pitchers duel as the game was decided on a solo homer by Rice’s Michael Fuda in the bottom of the seventh.
The Panthers (28-24) played the No. 1 seed in the Houston Regional as well as they could have without winning, getting 6 2/3 innings of baseball from starter Derrick Mitchell, who only surrendered three runs (two earned) to the No. 7 ranked Owls (41-17). Then closer Daniel Castillo came in and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
However, the Panthers couldn’t get on the board offensively after they ignited the crowd with a two-run inning in the second to take a 2-0 lead, going scoreless against Rice pitchers John Simms and Tyler Duffey for the final seven innings.
The Panthers put runners on first and second in the top of the second with one out after Stef Hernandez reached on fielding error by Rice shortstop Ford Stainback. Center fielder Colby Hines made the Owls pay for the error with a two-RBI double deep to right-center, driving in catcher Evan Richard and Hernandez to take the 2-0 lead.
Stainback countered back in the bottom of the second with a sacrifice fly to score Shane Hoelscher from third to cut the deficit to 2-1 with two outs. Michael Ratterree tied the game with a RBI triple on a mis-judged ball by Hines in centerfield.
With runners at the corners with two outs in the top of the sixth, Hernandez had the chance to give the Panthers another lead. He fouled out on a fly ball just behind the first base line, and the score remained tied at 2-2.
Fuda hit a solo homer with no outs on a 1-2 count in the bottom of the seventh off of Mitchell to give Rice a 3-2 lead. Mitchell fell to 6-5 and gave up just six hits while recording two strike outs. He threw 117 pitches with 68 strikes.
Rice improved to 8-0 all-time vs. Prairie View (8-0 at home) since the 1999 season. The Panthers will play Sam Houston State (38-21), who lost its Houston Regional opener 5-4 to Arkansas, at 1 p.m. Saturday at Reckling Park. Live video and live stats available through the Rice University NCAA Baseball Tournament Central Page. Post-Game Quotes Prairie View A&M Head Coach Waskyla Cullivan Opening Statement
“I felt like we played a good game today. (LHP) Derrick Mitchell did a great job of being a starting pitcher and (CF) Colby Hines had a clutch 2-run RBI. Offensively, we probably could have put the ball in play just a little more, but other than that I think it was a great team effort.
On trying to put early pressure on Rice: We got the lead early to kind of force Rice, put the pressure on them a bit. The thing that hurt us is that we couldn’t continue to score runs. We got the runs early, and we just couldn’t extend the lead we had early in the game.
On what he told the team about moving forward: We knew we could compete. We were in this region in 2006 and 2007, and we lost by one run in 2006, similar type game. In 2007, it was a good game as well, so we knew coming in that we could play on this level. I told the guys in the pre-game meeting, moral victories, we’re kind of tired of that. We’ve been through that before, and we needed to win. We fell short again and had another moral victory, but you’ve got to win the game. We’re kind of disappointed as a program because we were coming in expecting to win.
Derrick Mitchell, Senior Starting LHP
On getting out of innings when Rice had runners in scoring position: Just always trying to compete. I was doing my best to get all the outs any way I can. I had a rhythm going every once in a while. It’s hard against a good Rice team, but I just kept my head up and tried to go hard.
On what pitches he relied on: I relied a lot on my curve ball. It started going for strikes. A lot of my other pitches were kind of erratic but it kept me in there.
On the Rice batters: We knew that they didn’t like to swing at a lot of outside curve balls so we tried to get it in there. We tried to get fastballs in and try our best.
On Rice’s Michael Fuda’s lead-off home run in the 7th: I got on him early. In my gut, I thought I could make the pitch, but I just left it out over the plate a little bit.
Colby Hines, Junior CF
On Rice’s Michael Ratterree’s RBI triple to center in the 3rd: That’s one of those ones that’s hit straight at you. You have to make a quick decision, and it has to be the right one. If I had stepped back, I would have had a better chance of catching the ball, maybe. It was a hard ball to judge.