HOUSTON- The biggest turnaround this year in NCAA baseball came to an end Saturday night as No. 6 Texas A&M fell to No. 1 Rice, 5-2, before a record crowd of 5,234 fans at Reckling Park.
The Aggies finished the year 48-19 after not making the postseason the last two years. Rice (54-12) will advance to the College World Series with the series win over A&M.
"I am really proud of what this group of guys accomplished," A&M head coach Rob Childress said. "They came to the field everyday with a chip on their shoulder and a desire to compete. I have been around a lot of good teams, but this team was special in the way they respected each other and played for each other."
Rice took the early lead in the top of the first with a run off A&M starting pitcher Kyle Thebeau. Brian Friday started the inning with a double and scored on a single up the middle Joe Savery.
The Aggies loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half of the inning and score two runs on a fielder's choice. But second base umpire Steve Mattingly called interference on Blake Stouffer's slide into second and called Luke Anders out at first to end the inning.
"I can't really comment on the rule, but we've played (67) games and that's the first time that has been called," A&M coach Rob Childress said.
"It's a questionable call," Stouffer said. "I was going in to make an aggressive slide and you don't really think in that situation, you just react.
"The umpire apparently saw me go wide of the bag and called the interference. I tried to make an aggressive slide. I wasn't trying to hit (Friday) or anything, I was trying to break up (the double play) if I could."
Savery delivered his second RBI of the game in the top of the third when he belted his fifth home run of the year to increase the Owl lead to 2-0.
A hit batter and infield singles by Friday and Gayhart loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the fourth. Reliever Kirkland Rivers replace Thebeau on the mound and was able to limit the damage to one run which increased the Owls' lead to 3-0.
Thebeau (3-6) lasted three-plus innings and allowed three runs on seven hits. He struck out six and walked two.
A&M got on the board in the bottom of the fourth with back-to-back two-out doubles by Josh Stinson and Darby Brown to cut the Rice lead to 3-1.
Rice regained the three-run lead in the top of the seventh when Savery singled through a drawn-in infield to drive in his third run of the game.
After an unearned run in the eighth gave the Owls a 5-1 lead, Blake Stouffer homered off Rice closer Cole St. Clair in the eighth. That was the only run A&M would get off St. Clair as he earned his eighth save of the year.
Matt Langwell (8-1) threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed one run on four hits.
Aggies go down with a fight
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