HOUSTON - Houston rode a five-run fourth inning to an 8-3 win over the visiting Rice baseball team in the first meeting of the season-long best-of-three series Tuesday night across town at Cougar Field.
Rice saw its seven-game win streak come to an end. The Owls are now 15-7 on the season. Houston improved to 14-7 overall.
The final result was not what Rice wanted against its crosstown rival, but there was certainly a silver lining to game one for the Silver Glove Trophy. Junior Jordan Stephens, who was sidelined most of last year, started on the mound for the first time and worked a season-high 3.0 innings. The right-hander from Alvin, Texas, scattered three hits without any walks while striking out three.
The teams were scoreless for the first three frames. Houston broke through for five runs in the fourth on five hits, a walk and two Owl fielding errors.
The Blue & Gray collected a pair of hits in the bottom of the second inning but could not the convert the men on base into runs. Rice staged a two-out rally in the top of the sixth to post a pair of runs. Ford Stainback drew a walk, a singles by Leon Byrd and UH fielding error loaded the bases. Kirby Taylor followed with a slicing single to center to drive in Stainback and Byrd and to cut the margin to 5-2.
Rice was looking to pull closer by putting another two on base in the seventh. The Cougars worked out of the jam, however, and added two of their own. Zac Taylor hit a leadoff single and John Vidales' two run homer made the score 7-2.
The Owls answered with a run in the top of the eighth. With two away and runners on first and third, Houston struggled with Connor Teykl's tricky ground ball that allowed John Clay Reeves to trot home and make it 7-3. Rice was still looking for more with the bases-loaded, but UH avoided further damage with a strikeout. The Cougars added one final score in the eighth in an 8-3 final.
The Owls went on to use a total of seven pitchers on the night. John Williamson pitched in relief of Stephens, who was then followed by Glen Otto, Austin Solecitto, Ricardo Salinas, Josh Pettitte, and Matt Ditman.
The contest was day one of a week-long stretch on the road. Rice continues its current road swing this weekend with a return to Conference USA league play against Old Dominion. Start time against the Monarchs is scheduled for 5 pm (Central Time).