March 7, 2014
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HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team used Leon Byrd's clutch bases-loaded double in the bottom of the first inning with a solid first start of the season by Zech Lemond for a 4-1 Conference USA victory over visiting Old Dominion in the league opener for both teams Friday night at Reckling Park in Houston.
The Owls went right to work in the bottom of the first inning, loading the bases on a single by Michael Aquino and two-out walks by John Clay Reeves and Connor Teykl. Bird followed with a bases-clearing double to left field for a 3-0 advantage.
That was all the room Lemond, the program's record-setting reliever, needed in his first start of the season and just the fourth of his collegiate career. Lemond did not surrender a hit until the fifth inning and he finished a career-high tying 6.2 innings with a new career-best ten strikeouts. He was touched for an unearned run in the fifth after a passed ball with the bases-loaded, but he avoided further damage by striking out three-straight batters after the ODU run came home.
Rice came right back with a run in its half of the fifth. Keenan Cook drew a leadoff walk and advanced to scoring position on Aquino's sacrifice bunt. He sprinted home on Skyler Ewing's single through the left side to make the score 4-1.
Lemond (2-0) also stranded a Monarch runner on third base in the top of sixth. He had help from the bullpen as ODU left two men on in both the seventh and ninth. Redshirt sophomore Matt Ditman worked the final inning in relief to earn his second career save.
"When you go into a big Friday night game you have to go with your top gun," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham, now in his 23rd season at the helm of the program. "Right now (Zech) is our top starter."
Rice is now 9-5 overall and 1-0 in C-USA play. ODU is 8-5 on the season and 0-1 in conference.
Note the new schedule for the remaining games in the series. On Saturday there is now a double-header for the teams beginning at 10 am. The twinbill replaces Sunday's scheduled game, which is under the threat of rain in the area.