HOUSTON - Senior John Clay Reeves' two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning broke a 2-2 deadlock and propelled the Rice baseball team to a 5-2 home victory over crosstown foe Houston Baptist Tuesday evening at Reckling Park.
Reeves, the Conference USA preseason player of the year on a poll of league's head coaches, singled and scored in the bottom of the second inning for a 1-0 advantage. Undefeated HBU would not go away so easily and battled back to take the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth.
The Owls tied the score, 2-2, in the fifth. Kirby Taylor drew a leadoff walk and moved to scoring position on Tristan Gray's sacrifice bunt. Taylor hustled to third on a fly to right and scored on an RBI single by Ryan Chandler.
The crosstown-contest was deadlocked until the bottom of the eighth. Leon Byrd led off with a double to the gap in right-center. Reeves followed and connected on an 0-1 pitch for his second two-run homer of the season to left field. The round-tripper put Rice in front 4-2, but the Owls weren't quite finished. Three-straight two-out singles by Taylor, Gray and Kopycinski plated a fifth and final run.
"J.C.'s a good hitter," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "We have to have his bat in the lineup, there's no question about that. Our hitting overall has been off to a good start."
The Owls (3-2 overall) posted 11 hits on the night, including three for extra bases. It was the team's fifth-straight game with double-digits hits to open the season. The Rice pitchers meanwhile notched double-digit strikeouts for a second-straight game and a third time overall.
True freshman Willy Amador made his first collegiate start on the mound and struck out five in 3.1 innings. Fellow freshman Glenn Otto followed and fanned five more in 4.1 frames. Veteran right-hander Matt Ditman pitched the final 1.1 scoreless innings and had one strikeout on the way to his first win of the season.
HBU is now 3-1 on the season. Rice has concluded its season-opening five-game homestand and next travels to meet PAC-12 power Arizona on the road in Tucson. The three-game weekend series with the Wildcats begins Friday, Feb. 20, at 4 pm (Central Time).