HOUSTON -- The fifth-ranked Vanderbilt baseball team rallied for seven runs off the Rice bullpen to claim a 7-3 victory over top-ranked Rice Friday afternoon in the opening game of the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston.
It is the second Rice defeat in as many games after a 3-2 loss on the road at Texas State on Tuesday. The Owls (1-2) next face 20th-ranked Baylor at 7 pm on Saturday's second day of tournament action.
Rice opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning. Junior Joe Savery led off with a single to center and Jordan Dodson followed with a walk. J.P. Padron reached on a Vanderbilt fielding error that loaded the bases and the Owls made the most of the opportunity. Chad Lembeck drove in Savery on a fielder's choice, but another Vandy error allowed Dodson to take an extra 90 feet to make the score 2-0.
The Owls had a solid start on the mound from junior right-hander Chris Kelley, who allowed just one run on four hits after 5.1 innings. The Commodores scored a run in the sixth when Alex Feinberg doubled to right-center with one away and came home on a base hit to center by Pedro Alvarez.
The Owls came right back with a run in the bottom of the frame. Padron drew a one-out walk and scored on a pinch-hit double to right by Jess Buenger for a 3-1 lead.
Vanderbilt erupted for four runs in the top of the seventh. With two away the Commodores strung together a double, walk and hit batsman to load the bases. Feinberg blooped a ball behind second base that second baseman Aaron Luna and shortstop Brian Friday converged on a sprint. The two Rice infielders collided as the ball arrived and Vandy avoided the third out of the inning. With two men still on base, a Rice error in the outfield allowed the runners to score for a 5-3 advantage. In the top of the eighth Vanderbilt's Shea Robin and Jonathan White slugged back-to-back home runs in to the Minute Maid Park Crawford Boxes to extend the margin to 7-3.
Vanderbilt improved to 1-0 with a win its season-opener. Tournament action at the Houston College Classic continues through Sunday.
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