March 21, 2014
Junior right-hander Zech Lemond struck out a career-high 12 batters in a career-long 8.1 innings to help pace the Rice baseball team claim a 2-0 victory over visiting Florida Atlantic in the opener of a three-game Conference USA league series Friday evening at Reckling Park.
Little room for error in a tight pitcher's duel with FAU and junior left-hander Austin Gomber, Lemond fired 8.1 scoreless frames to help Rice win its seventh-straight game. The Houston native scattered six singles and three walks while getting the first out in the top of the ninth inning. FAU's Mith Morales bounced a one-out single up the middle and stole second base to move into scoring position, but Rice stopper Matt Ditman preserved the shutout win with a strikeout and ground ball. Lemond improved to 3-0 on the season. Ditman notched his team-leading fourth save while extending his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 12.1 in a row.
Rice scored the game's first run in the bottom of the third. Kirby Taylor and Leon Byrd hit back-to-back one-out singles and advanced 90-feet on a ground ball to the right side. Skyler Ewing followed with an infield grounder, but Byrd disrupted the FAU defense long enough to allow Taylor to sprint home for a run before being retired back at second base.
FAU continued to battle, but Lemond worked out of jams where runners reached scoring position in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings. In the bottom of the eighth Rice added one final insurance run on an RBI single by Shane Hoelscher to score Keenan Cook. The two runs were the only damage allowed by Gomber in pitching 8.0 innings for FAU.
Rice finished with nine hits to improve to 17-6 overall and a league-leading 6-1 in C-USA action. FAU is now 14-8 on the season and 3-4 in conference. The C-USA series continues through Sunday. Both Saturday's and Sunday's games are set for a 1 pm first pitch. Saturday's contest is slated for a live television broadcast by Fox Sports Net.