HOUSTON -- With no shortage of late-inning drama, the Rice baseball team rallied from a two-run deficit, rode senior pitcher Ryne Tacker's sterling relief performance through the middle innings, and then hung-on for a 4-3 win over visiting Texas-San Antonio Tuesday evening at Reckling Park to kick-off an eight-game homestand.
Holding a narrow two-run lead in the top of the ninth with the bases-loaded and just one away, the Owls escaped with a one-run win. A wild pitch on a strikeout scored one to make it a 4-3 game with two away, but there were still two Roadrunners in scoring position. The next batter, UTSA's Michael Rockett, then hit a ground ball to the right side where junior first baseman Joe Savery recorded the final out of the game as hitter and fielder kicked up a cloud of dirt on a sprint to the bag.
Rice moved to an even 3-3 on the season. UTSA dropped to 0-1 playing in its season-opener, but the Roadrunners were sharp from the start and jumped on the scoreboard for a run in the top of the first inning. Marshal Davis led off with a walk and he advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Michael Rockett singled up the middle to drive Davis home for a 1-0 lead.
The Roadrunners added a run in the third. Greg Sillivent and Rockett hit back-to-back singles and a Rice error in the outfield allowed both men to move up an extra 90 feet. Sillivent scored on a ground out to the right side to stretch the margin to 2-0.
Rice came right back and tied the game with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame. Travis Reagan and Chad Lembeck collected infield hits and a walk to Brian Friday loaded the bases. Aaron Luna drew a walk to score one run and Jess Buenger was hit by a pitch to tie it, 2-2.
In the fourth Jordan Dodson singled and advanced to second on a Reagan's sacrifice bunt. Rice ended up not needing to play small-ball because Tyler Henley followed with a two-run homer to right field that gave the Owls a 4-2 advantage.
While the Rice offense regained the lead Tacker was already firmly in command on the mound. The senior right-hander came out of the bullpen in the top of the fourth and scattered six hits while posting a career-high nine strikeouts without any walks in a season-long 5.1 innings of work. The veteran from Benbrook earned his first win two years after sitting out all of last year with an injury. He reluctantly came out of the game in the ninth to a standing Reckling Park crowd of 2,146 that hadn't seen him pitch at home since 2005.
The Owls continue the lengthy homestand through the next two weekends. The Blue & Gray next hosts national power Long Beach State in a three-game weekend series Friday through Sunday, Feb. 16-18. Game times with 49ers are 4 pm, 2 pm and 1 pm, respectively.