HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team erupted for 13 unanswered runs on 13 hits midway through the game on the way to 13-1 home victory over longtime foe Stephen F. Austin Wednesday night at Reckling Park in Houston.
The Owls continued a current streak of double-digit hits for each of the team's nine games this season. For the first 4.1 innings of the game, however, Rice was battling a determined SFA squad to get just one.
SFA starter Jarred Green had a no-hitter for the first 4.1 innings of the contest, as well as a 1-0 lead on a solo home run by Garrett McMullen to lead off the top of the second. The Owls rallied for three runs on three hits in the bottom of the fifth and proceeded to stretch the margin to 13-1 over the next three frames.
"Baseball can be like that," Rice head coach Wayne Graham explained. "They were playing well and we weren't doing much. We finally got a hit and some runners (in the bottom of the fifth) and made it back to the top of the lineup to get something going."
In the fifth Hunter Kopycinski lined a one-out single up the middle, and Grayson Lewis reached when the Lumberjacks had trouble with a tricky fly ball into the sun. With two men on and now at the top of the order, freshman Ryan Chandler laced a double just inside the right field line to tie the game 1-1. Lewis scored on a ground out and Leon Byrd followed with an RBI single to left for a new 3-1 game.
The Blue & Gray exploded for six runs on four hits in the sixth, a run in the seventh and three more in the bottom of the eighth on the way to the 13-1 final. Eight of the nine starters in the lineup finished with at least on hit. Chandler paced the 13-hit attack by going 3-for-5 with a double, a walk, four RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base.
Almost lost in the offensive fireworks was a solid night for the Rice pitching staff. Five Owls combined to allow SFA one run on six hits while striking out 14 and walking just one batter. John Williamson earned his first career win working a career-long 3.0 innings in relief. The Houston native punctuated his three perfect frames with five strikeouts. Relievers Glenn Otto and Austin Solecitto both struck out the side in their only respective inning on the mound.
"Our pitching did well, and John did very well," coach Graham said. "He stabilized everything when he came in (to start the top of the fourth). We knew he was capable of having a game like tonight. He didn't pitch last weekend (at Arizona) because we had him playing in the outfield - and he had six hits in that series."
Rice improved to 6-3 with a second-straight win. SFA is now 2-7 overall.
The Owls' current homestand continues through Sunday (March 1). Rice next hosts Stanford in a four-game home series beginning on Friday (Feb. 27). First pitch of the series-opener is set for 6 pm at Reckling Park. A Saturday split double-header is set for noon and 4 pm.