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Rodriguez drives offense to early eight-run lead

NEW ORLEANS -- Rice coach Wayne Graham, who's spent most of
his 69 years playing or coaching baseball, had some simple advice
for his hitters as they stepped up to face Tulane ace and major
league prospect Brian Bogusevic.

"He throws a lot of strikes … and we told our guys: 'You've
got to be ready,'" Graham said.

Ready they were, pounding out seven runs on 12 hits in just the
first four innings, then holding on for a 9-5 victory over national
top seed Tulane on Saturday in the opener of their NCAA Super
Regional.

Josh Rodriguez led the attack with four hits, two RBI and three
runs scored as Rice (45-17), the seventh seed, jumped out to a 9-1
lead.

"We knew how good he is, but I don't think we were intimidated
by him," said Rice's Tyler Henley, who had three hits and scored
three times. "If anything, we fed off of it."

Owls starter Josh Geer gave up only one run on six hits through
the first six innings and gave some credit to a stiff wind --
generated by Tropical Storm Arlene a couple hundred miles to the
east -- that blew in steadily toward home plate.

"Early on the wind blowing in really helped out a lot," Geer
said. "I elevated the ball and they were swinging at it, and the
ball just stayed in the park."

Geer ran into minor trouble in the seventh, when Tulane (53-10)
scored four runs and threatened for more by loading the bases with
one out. But reliever Bobby Bell came on to retire the next two
batters on ground balls, then shut out Tulane in the last two
innings for the save.

"Bell came in and it was evident he would get his fastball as
well as his changeup over the plate, and he was not perturbed by
anything," Graham said. "We kind of like it."

Game Two of the best-of-three series is scheduled for Sunday at
noon, with Rice, the 2003 national champions, needing only one more
victory to advance to the College World Series. Rice's projected
starter, Joe Savery, started at first base on Saturday and hurt his
non-throwing hand going after a foul ball near the fence. Graham
could not say whether he'd be able to pitch on Sunday.

"There's a chance," Graham said. "He's got as much stuff as
anyone in the country, so we'd like to have him out there."

Geer (12-4) ended up being charged with all five Tulane runs,
four of them earned, through 6 1/3 innings. He gave up 10 hits and
struck out three.

Just days after being selected by the Houston Astros in the
first round of the Major League Baseball draft, Bogusevic (13-2)
had one of his worst appearances of the season.

"Bogusevic did not have his best stuff and everything that Rice
hit had eyes. That's going to happen sometimes and they took
advantage," Tulane coach Rick Jones said. "Early it just seemed
like everything we did was wrong. But this is a two-out-of-three
series and there's a reason for that."

Five of the first six Rice batters hit safely. Rodriguez and
Savery each had RBI singles before Danny Lehmann pulled double down
the left field line, scoring Adam Rodgers for a 3-0 lead and
sending Savery to third. It could have been worse, but when Savery
appeared to score on Pendleton's one-out sacrifice fly, Tulane
appealed to third and Savery was called out to end the inning.

Rice then posted three more runs in the top of the second,
helped by shortstop Tommy Manzella's relay throw into the stands as
Dodson tried to take third on Henley's single. The error sent
Dodson home while Henley ended up on third and scored one batter
later when Greg Buchanan chopped a double over third base. After
moving to third on Rodriguez's single, Buchanan scored easily on
Savery's squeeze bunt to the left side that was so well placed it
went for a base hit, making it 6-0.

"They just swung the bat and they put the bat on the ball and
that's all you can do when you're up there hitting," Bogusevic
said. "They found holes. … It's very frustrating."

Tulane had a chance to get back in the game in the fourth inning
on Matt Barket's bases-loaded drive that hit the wall just below
the right field foul pole. Micah Owings scored from third, but
apparent confusion over whether the ball was fair caused Mark
Hamilton, who had been on second, to stop at third. That caused a
domino effect of Bogusevic scrambling back to second and Barket
trying to get back to first, where he was thrown out. After a walk
loaded the bases, Nathan Southard grounded into a force out to end
the inning, leaving the score at 7-1.

"We got one run out of a [possible] double off the wall. That
really hurt," Jones said.

Southard's two-run homer highlighted a four-run seventh for
Tulane, but the Green Wave got no closer. Brandon Gomes, who
relieved Bogusevic in the fifth, gave up Rice's last two runs but
also retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced to keep Tulane's
hopes of a comeback alive though most of the game.

A crowd of 4,602 attended the game, setting a new record for
on-campus Turchin Stadium, where new bleachers were added for the
post season.