TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona opportunistically made the most of four Rice fielding errors in the bottom of the ninth inning to score two late runs and claim a 7-6 come from behind win over the Owls' baseball team Saturday afternoon in Tucson, Ariz.
Rice baseball has been playing for close to 100 years, but it would be hard to find another game in the program's history that slipped away in this manner in the bottom of the ninth inning. With a 6-5 lead the Owls made four (4) fielding errors to pave the way for two Arizona runs to come home, the final being a steal of home by Kevin Newman with two outs already recorded.
The afternoon began well enough as Rice quickly struck for a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. Ryan Chandler reached on a fielding error and walks to Ford Stainback and John Clay Reeves loaded the bases. Connor Teykl delivered a one-out hit to into right for two RBI.
The Owls took advantage of an Arizona error for a run in the third. Leon Byrd started the inning off with a double to left-center. Charlie Warren lined a single near first base that the Wildcats were able to keep from going into the outfield, but then mishandled the ball after making the initial stop. Byrd had easily advanced to third, and then alertly sprinted home on the miscue to make it 3-0.
Arizona came right back three runs in the bottom of the frame. Back-to-back two-out home runs by Riley Moore and Bobby Dalbec leveled the score at 3-3.
Rice regained the advantage in the sixth. A walk, single and hit batsman quickly loaded the bases. Chandler needed only sacrifice fly to get one run in, but an Arizona fielding error on the play allowed an additional Owl score to make it 5-3.
Both teams had two-out rallies for runs in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh, respectively. The Owl score was on an RBI single by Hunter Kopycinski after base hits by Grayson Lewis and John Williamson.
Arizona pulled to within one with a run in the bottom of the seventh. After two hits and two walks the Wildcats were threatening for more with the bases-loaded and just one away, but reliever Matt Ditman worked out of the pressure-filled jam to keep at 6-5.
The Owls could have helped themselves with some insurance runs in the top of the ninth after getting two men on base. The 13 runners the offense left on base over the course of the game could have come in handy.
Arizona's Scott Kingery reached on an infield error to start the bottom of the ninth. The Owls then threw off the mark to second when Newman attempted to bunt him into scoring position. The Owls got one out on a sacrifice bunt, which advanced the runners, but Kingery scored the game-tying run when UA jarred the ball loose (which led to an error) after the out was recorded. The Owls still could not convert yet another infield grounder for an out, which sent Newman from second to third. Newman stole home for the 7-6 final.
Rice is now 4-3 on the season, while Arizona improved to 6-1. The weekend series is now tied 1-1. The teams play the series finale at 11 am Mountain Time (Noon, Central).