March 9, 2013
The Owls entered the bottom of ninth holding a 2-1 lead with starting pitcher Jordan Stephens working a sound and solid 8.0 innings with no significant damage. The junior right-hander from Alvin, Tex., had retired 12-straight at one point and finished allowing just five hits and walk while striking out five.
FIU would not go away so easily at home and staged a two-run rally on three hits with one away. The Panthers were still threatening for another run to close-out a possible victory, but Rice evaded any further damage to send the contest into extra frames.
Rice made the most of the extra opportunity in the tenth, and proceeded to post three big runs on the scoreboard. Michael Aquino and Michael Ratterree hit one-out singles. FIU was able to get another out before pinch-hitter Keenan Cook came off the bench and laced a line drive to left-center to score Aquino and move Ratterree up to second. Freshman Connor Teykl followed with a single to left to drive in Ratterree, but the Owls weren't quite finished. FIU walked each of the next two batters to force in a third run before finally getting out of the inning.
The Blue & Gray stretched the margin to 6-3, but the final run on the bases-loaded walk proved to be a game-breaker. The Panthers staged one final two-out rally to score a run on three hits to make it a one-run game with a man in scoring position. The Owls finally ended the contest with a ground-out for a 6-5 final.
Rice finished with six runs on eight hits to improve to 9-6 overall. Ratterree and Aquino went a combined 4-for-8 with a two walks and two runs scored. Sophomore reliever Zech Lemond notched his first win of the season working in relief of Stephens (who finished with a no-decision).
The contest finished with a considerably different look than how it began. Rice quickly opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first inning. Ford Stainback drew a one-out walk and alertly hustled to second base on a FIU wild pitch. Stainback advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored easily on a line-drive double by Ratterree that bounced off third base into shallow left field.
FIU tied the score in the bottom of the second. Golden Panther Aramis Garcia hit a one-out pitch over the wall in left-center field for a solo home run. It was the only real damage Stephens allowed for the first 8.0 frames.
Rice regained the advantage with two runs in the top of the fourth. The key blow was a bases-loaded base hit into right field by Stainback to make the score 3-1.
The Owls have won each of the first two games of the series, but there is still one left to play in the three-game weekend set. Sunday's series finale is set for 10 am (Central Time).