Feb. 19, 2012
HOUSTON - The No. 6 ranked Rice baseball team exploded for five runs in the bottom of the first inning on the way to an 8-1 victory over visiting FIU Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park. With the win the Owls completed the three-game sweep of the opening weekend series to start the young season 3-0 for the first time since 2006.
The Owls opportunistically took advantage of four walks and two hit batters to take a big 5-0 advantage in the bottom of the first inning. Senior catcher Craig Manuel delivered a one-out double to center field with the bases-loaded for a 3-0 lead, but the offense wasn't finished. J.T. Chargois singled-home Manuel for a fourth run and Christian Stringer drew a bases-loaded walk when the Blue & Gray batted around to stretch the margin to five.
FIU answered with a run in the top of the third to make it 5-1. Julius Gaines led off with a single and scored on Rudy Flores' two-out single after a walk and a ground out.
Rice got the run right back in its next at bat. Junior first baseman Ryan Lewis connected on a pitch for a shot that cleared the right field wall. Lewis second career round-tripper made the score 6-1. The team has already tallied four home runs in the first three games of the season after hitting 23 in 63 games last year.
The Owls added two more runs in the seventh. Stringer led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Ford Stainback. Michael Fuda singled him home and later scored on a failed pickoff attempt that made it 8-1.
Freshman right-hander Jordan Stephens started on the mound for Rice and worked 4.1 innings in his Division I debut. He allowed a run and struck out three before being relieved by sophomore John Simms, junior Andrew Benak and freshman Trevor Simms. The trio did not allow any runs the rest of the way, scattering three hits and two walks while combining for four strikeouts.
The Rice defense saved a run in the top of the eighth. With two away and a Panther running from second on a base hit to right field, junior Jeremy Rathjen made a long throw to the plate and Manuel quickly applied a sweeping tag to end the inning.
The opening week of the season was a success, and there's still five more games scheduled in the current homestand. The Owls next host New Mexico State in a pair of mid-week games on Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 21-22). Start time with the NMSU Aggies is set for 4:30 pm at Reckling Park. Rice then hosts NCAA Super Regional participant Dallas Baptist in a three-game weekend series Feb. 24-26.
The game's box score appears at the above link.
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