CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Rice baseball team rallied from a two-run deficit in the eighth inning for an eventual 6-3 Conference USA road victory and sweep of the weekend series at Charlotte Sunday afternoon in North Carolina.
Rice quickly posted a run in the top of the first inning, but Charlotte moved in front in the second and the held the lead. Zach Jarrett and Brett Netzer started the frame off with consecutive singles. Two-out walks to Nick Daddio and Luke Gibbs forced in the tying run. Derek Gallello singled-home Netzer for the 2-1 lead, but a sensational throw to the plate by Rice freshman centerfielder Chandler to get Daddio ended the threat.
The 49ers then added a run in the bottom of the sixth. T.J. Nichting hit a leadoff single and advanced on a wild pitch. He scored on Netzer's RBI single that extended the margin to 3-1.
The Owls had a man on base in the second, fourth and sixth, and two runners on in the seventh, but could not convert the offensive chances. In the top of the eighth Charlie Warren reached on an infield single and hustled to third on Ryan Chandler's base hit. Leon Byrd followed with an RBI single to make it 3-2. John Clay Reeves tied the game, 3-3, with a clutch RBI single to plate Chandler with Byrd digging for third. Byrd then scored easily on Kirby Taylor's sacrifice fly to put Rice back in front 4-3.
The Owls then added two key insurance runs in the ninth to stretch the lead to 6-3. That was more than enough room for Jordan Stephens working the final two innings in relief of Matt Ditman, who had entered in the bottom of the sixth. Stephens struck out four of the seven batters he faced to earn his first save of the season.
Austin Orewiler started on the mound and threw a total of 5.1 innings. He allowed three runs on five hits and three walks while striking out seven. John Williamson saw action in the sixth before making the move to Ditman. Ditman moved to 2-1 on the season with 1.1 hitless innings.
On the offensive side Ryan Chandler, Leon Byrd, Kirby Taylor and Charlie Warren all had two hits to pace an 11-hit attack. The Owls are now 11-6 on the season and a 3-0 in C-USA with the season-opening sweep. Charlotte is 4-5 overall and 0-3 in league play.
Rice has concluded its week-long four-game road swing. The Owls are back at Reckling Park to begin a five-game homestand starting on Tuesday, March 10. The Blue & Gray host longtime foe Lamar beginning at 6:30 pm.