Feb. 23, 2014
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HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team amassed a season high 20 hits on the way to its biggest run outburst in four years in a 23-3 victory over visiting Purdue in the finale of the three-game weekend series Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park.
The Owls exploded for ten runs in the bottom of the first inning on eight hits, two walks and a hit batsman. Rice was in control, but far from finished at the plate. The Blue & Gray proceeded to add three more runs in the fifth, seven in the sixth, and three in the seventh for its largest run total since scoring 24 in the 2010 Conference USA Tournament (where Rice also posted double-digit first-inning runs in that contest). The Owls forced the Boilermakers to use five pitchers in Saturday's 9-1 win. Rice head coach Wayne Graham wants the team to make hitting a habit for the long season ahead.
"You have to be able to hit the ball and we hit it well today," coach Graham said. "It was good to see some guys come out of it a little bit. Any time you make hard contact it helps with confidence."
With six different Owls collecting at least two hits, while eleven different players getting a hit, confidence seemed to be everywhere in the lineup Sunday. Junior second baseman Ford Stainback was 4-for-6 with four RBI, a double and two runs scored. Skyler Ewing continued his sensational start to the season with a 3-for-6 day, four runs scored and six RBI which were highlighted by a grand slam home run in the sixth. Since last fall coach Graham has said `to keep an eye on Ewing.'
"I think Skyler is tremendously valid," Graham explained. "He has found out some things about his swing and he was always coordinated and powerful. Now his swing is right and I think people will see him be good hitter all year long."
Almost lost in all the offensive fireworks was a steady outing on the mound by Rice sophomore starter Kevin McCanna. The right-hander from The Woodlands scattered five hits and did not allow any walks in six innings to earn his first win of the season. Caleb Smith fired two hitless frames and Austin Orewiler added a hitless inning in the top of the ninth in his first collegiate appearance.
Rice completed the three-game sweep of the weekend series to improve to 6-2 on the season. Purdue dropped to 0-6.
The Owls close out the current homestand on Tuesday night (Feb. 25) with a game against longtime for Sam Houston State. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 pm at Reckling Park.