Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HOUSTON -- The Rice baseball team pushed across one run on just three hits, and the Owl pitching tandem of Ricardo Salinas and Glenn Otto made it stand up by combining for a shutout in the finale of the three-game weekend series Sunday afternoon in San Antonio.
Rice, now 10-9 on the season, claimed the weekend road series two games to one. UTSA moved to 10-9 overall and 1-2 in conference.
In a game where runs would prove to be at a premium, defense plays and pitching were the day's hot commodity. The Owls had so much of both, it seemed the team had cornered the market.
In each of the first two innings Rice made successful throws to the plate to retire UTSA runners attempting to score. Dayne Wunderlich was the first in the first with a throw from left field. Charlie Warren then delivered a rocket shot from right to throw out another in the second.
UTSA was on the attack with men on second and third base with no one out in the third inning. Salinas pitched his way out of trouble to keep the Roadrunners off the board, and that seemed to give the Owls a lift.
The top of the fourth was where Rice struck for the day's lone score. Ryan Chandler dropped a one-out single into right-center and moved to second on Ford Proctor's two-out walk. The duo executed a double-steal, but a Roadrunner throw on the play was off the mark at third and got away from the defense. Chandler alertly dashed home for the 1-0 advantage.
UTSA came back with runners on second and third base and one out in the fourth, and then first and third in the fifth, but Salinas stopped both threats with inning-ending strikeouts.
In the bottom of the sixth, senior catcher Hunter Kopycinski made sharp throw to remove a would-be base-stealer. Salinas had been solid striking out five in 5.2 innings of the shutout, but two walks in the frame was enough to bring Otto out of the bullpen. With Otto in a groove the shut-down for the next 3.1 innings was all but underway.
Otto stuck out the first batter he saw to end the sixth. UTSA leadoff batter Skyler Valentine started the bottom of the seventh with a hard shot to right-center field, but Warren was on his horse and made a sensational leaping catch across his body for the out.
The defensive gem was the best of the day. Otto, however, saw to it there would not be a need for another. The right-hander from Spring, Texas, proceeded to strike out seven of the next eight batters he faced to end the game for the narrow 1-0 win. In earning his third save of the season Otto fanned eight of the ten batters he faced. He did not allow a hit nor a walk in his 3.1 innings of work.
Salinas moved to 2-1 with his second-straight win. Chandler finished with two of the Owls three hits. Freshman Ford Proctor extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a double to left-center field in his last at bat of the day in the ninth inning.
Rice next meets crosstown Houston on Tuesday (March 22). Start time at UH's Cougar Field is set for 6:30 pm. The Owls then return home to host Old Dominion in a three-game C-USA weekend series at Reckling Park on March 25-27.