HOUSTON - The Rice hitters posted a fourth-straight game with double-digit hits, and six Owl pitchers combined for an eye-opening 17 strikeouts, but Texas pushed across the go-ahead run in the top of the ten inning and then held off a final rally attempt in the bottom of the frame to claim a 4-3 win over Rice Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park.
The two nationally-ranked teams split the four-game weekend two games each. Only one total run separated the rivals for 37 total innings of baseball, where the Owls held a final advantage of 19-18.
After four scoreless frames Sunday the Owls broke through in the bottom of the fifth. Charlie Warren and Kirby Taylor started the inning off with singles and both advanced on Hunter Kopycinski's sacrifice bunt. The Longhorns elected to intentionally walk red-hot freshman Ryan Chandler to load the bases, and Ford Stainback followed with an RBI single to right-center field. Leon Byrd then singled to left to score Taylor and Chandler to stretch the margin to 3-0.
Texas tied the game with two away in the top of the seventh. With men on first and second Ben Johnson laced an RBI single to score one, but a Rice fielding error in the outfield allowed a second run to score with Johnson able to advance all the way to third on the play. CJ Hinojosa drove Johnson home with a base hit to make it 3-3.
Rice had its leadoff batter single to leadoff both the eighth and ninth innings, but could not regain the lead. In the top of the tenth, Tres Barrera drew a two-out walk and scored after a walk and RBI double by Michael McCann.
In the bottom of the tenth Rice made one final effort for some late heroics. The Owls had runners on first and second for Texas closed out a 4-3 final.
"We did not get the result we wanted but overall we played well again today, particularly (starting pitcher) Austin (Orewiler)," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "We played well all weekend, really. Texas is a very good team, but I think we are too."
Junior right-hander Austin Orewiler made the most of his first collegiate start. The Galveston native worked a career-long 6.2 innings, allowing just five hits and two walks while striking out a career best ten. Six Owl pitchers combined for 17 strikeouts on the day, the most by the staff since recording 23 in win at Hawaii in 2013. One of the Rice pitchers Sunday was right-hander Jordan Stephens, marking his return to duty after being sidelined most of last season. Stephens had a strikeout in one inning that lasted 12 total pitches.
The four-game opening super-series was a smash hit with fans. The combined attendance total was 17,191, almost 4,300 per game for the innovative four-game set. The Owls have one more game remaining in the season-opening homestand. Rice next hosts city foe Houston Baptist on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Start time is slated for 4:30 pm at Reckling Park.