HOUSTON -- Middle Tennessee came up huge in the second game of a three-game series at No. 14 Rice, capturing a 7-4 win to even the series 1-1 at Reckling Park on Saturday.
The win assured the Blue Raiders (17-12, 9-2) will remain atop the C-USA standings exiting the crucial road series against the Owls (21-12, 10-4). Middle Tennessee notched its third road win vs. a Top 25 team in the process.
Middle Tennessee collected 10 hits, including four for extra bases, played stellar defense and received superb pitching from Nate Hoffmann (3-1) and Kooper Kessler to earn the hard-fought win.
Rice marched out lefty Blake Fox, who entered the game 21-0 in his collegiate career. The Middle Tennessee hitters collected nine of their 10 hits against Fox, scoring seven runs, five earned, and chasing him in the fifth, while saddling him with his first career loss.
Hoffmann was up to the task for the Blue Raiders, pitching six innings, scattering four hits and allowing two runs, both earned to earn the win. Kessler came on in the seventh and provided three innings of relief to earn his second save.
"It was a big win for our ball club," said Middle Tennessee Head Coach Jim McGuire. "Our guys battled and had a great approach at the plate against a very tough customer on the mound in Fox. I was proud of (Hoffmann) and the way he battled against a very good hitting Rice team. It was huge to see our guys bounce back the way they did after dropping the opening game of the series Friday."
The bottom of Middle Tennessee's order came up huge, going a combined 5-for-11 with four runs scored and one RBI.
Jared Allen, Austin Bryant and Kevin Dupree led the hit parade with two hits each for the Blue Raiders. Allen was 2-for-4 with two RBI and one run scored. He connected for his team-leading seventh RBI in the fifth inning.
Bryant was 2-for-5 with two run scored, belting a triple and a double, and Dupree was 2-for-3 with one run scored.
Ronnie Jebavy was 1-for-5 with one RBI and one run scored, and Brad Jarreau (1-for-5), Jake Ingold (1-for-3, one run scored) and Austin Norrell (1-for-3, one run scored, one RBI) also had base knocks for the Blue Raiders.