TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rice rallied for two runs in the top of the tenth inning and then hung on for 6-4 road victory at Pac-12 foe Arizona Sunday afternoon in Tucson, Ariz. With the win the Owls claimed the weekend series two-games-to-one.
Sunday's game looked eerily like it might be a repeat of Saturday's middle game of the series, where the Owls had 13 hits, but left 13 runners on base only to lose 7-6 on a late Arizona rally. The Owls hadn't had any problems with hitting, totaling another 16 Sunday to extend the squad's current streak of double-digit hits to all eight games this season. The team just hadn't always converted the baserunners to runs, and Sunday appeared to be following the trend - until the top of the tenth.
With the score 4-4 to start the tenth, Ryan Chandler lined a leadoff double and hustled to third on Grayson Lewis' sacrifice bunt. The Arizona throw to third, however, was over the fielder's head and landed well into foul territory behind the base. Chandler sprinted home for the Owl lead and Lewis went to second. A wild pitch then sent Lewis to third, and he scored on John Clay Reeves' fifth base hit of the day to make it 6-4.
The Owls had a little more breathing room with the extra run, but reliever Austin Orewiler did not need the insurance. The right-hander from Galveston fired a scoreless bottom of the inning to improve to 1-0 with his second career win. He fired a total of 3.1 scoreless innings on the day, allowing just one hit without any walks and striking out three.
"Austin was terrific today, and we didn't want to waste that effort," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "We hit the ball well all day, and the whole series really, but key hits seemed to be a different story. We'd like to score more runs when we're hitting so well, but we scored enough today."
Rice continued a trend the team had enjoyed all weekend by quickly striking for a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. Ford Stainback and Leon Byrd belted back-to-back doubles for one run. Reeves followed with an RBI single for the second score, and the start of a 5-for-6 day with three RBI.
The Blue & Gray added another in the top of the second. Freshman Tristan Gray hustled to third on blast to right field. He scored by sliding under the throw to home on a ground ball with infield drawn-in to make it 3-0.
Arizona got one run back in the bottom of the third. Justin Behnke drew a one-out walk and scored after consecutive base hits by Scott Kingery and Kevin Newman.
The Owls answered in the top of the fourth. Kirby Taylor and Ryan Chandler hit safely to start it off. Taylor scored on Reeves' second RBI single to make the score 4-1. The Wildcats returned serve in its half of the inning. Zach Gibbons hit a one-out triple off the wall in left and scored on a ground out.
Arizona tied the game, 4-4, with two in the bottom of the seventh. Sawer Gieseke was hit by a pitch and advanced on a sacrifice. Kingery lined an RBI single to center, and took second when Rice threw the ball home. The Owls continued to play aggressively and make a play at Kingery at second, but a high throw sailed in to the outfield allowing him to score the equalizing, albeit unearned, run.
Orewiler entered the game in the bottom of the seventh, quickly extinguished the rally, and kept the Wildcats in check the rest of the way. Rice improved to 5-3 on the season. Arizona dropped to 6-2.
The Owls next open a five-game homestand beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 25, against longtime foe Stephen F. Austin. First pitch with the Lumberjacks is set for 4:30 pm at Reckling Park. Rice then hosts Stanford in a four-game home series beginning on Friday, Feb. 27.