March 8, 2014
HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team split Saturday's Conference USA double-header with visiting Old Dominion where both contests went into extra innings. The Owls claimed the first game by a score of 3-2 in 17 innings. ODU won the nightcap 2-1 in 10 innings.
The full day of baseball featured a final total of 27 innings. The weekend inning-count reached 36 when including Friday's opening game of the C-SUA weekend set. Rice won the series two games to one and is now 10-6 overall and 2-1 in league play. Old Dominion is 9-6 on the season and 1-2 in conference.
Old Dominion opened the scoring in game one with a run in the top of the third inning, but the Owls moved in front in the fourth after back-to-back singles by Keenan Cook and Skyler Ewing, and an RBI double to right field by Michael Aquino. John Clay Reeves followed with a sacrifice fly for a 2-1 advantage.
The Monarchs rallied run in the eighth to make it 2-2, but the Owls worked out of the jam before seeing a rally of their own come up just short in the bottom of the ninth where the potential winning run was stranded at third. The teams remained in a scoreless deadlock for eight more innings before the Blue & Gray pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the 17th. Ford Stainback lined a single into centerfield and then sprinted to third on Cook's single through the right side. Stainback was able to trot home on a long single to left by Ewing for an 3-2 final. The 17-inning marathon, which lasted a total of four hours and 53 minutes, is the longest league game in the history of Conference USA.
And that was only the opening act. The teams returned to the field for game two less than an hour later where the Owls quickly went right to work. Leon Byrd led off the bottom of the first with a walk and moved into scoring position on Cook's sacrifice bunt. Byrd stole third base and scored on a single to right field my Aquino.
Old Dominion tied it back up with a solo home run by Ben Slaton in the fourth, one of only two runs allowed by Rice starting pitcher Kevin McCanna. In a solid effort McCanna pitched a career-long 9.1 innings allowing only five hits and walk. The Woodlands, Texas, native also tied a career-high with five strikeouts. A hit batsman to start the 10th inning led to an ODU run to make the score 2-1. The Monarchs then retired the Owls in the bottom of the inning, including a tremendous defensive snare of a line drive right near the third base line by Jordan Negrini what could have led to even more extra inning action.
Rice continues its current homestand with a pair of games next week. The Owls host longtime rival TCU on Tuesday, March 11, at 6:30 pm at Reckling Park. The game is slated for a live television broadcast by Fox College Sports.