March 22, 2014
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HOUSTON - Senior Shane Hoelscher went 4-for-4 with three doubles, two runs scored, an RBI and a walk to lead the Rice baseball team's offensive outburst in a 14-1 Conference USA victory over Florida Atlantic University Saturday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Rice has claimed each of the first two games of the weekend series. There is a new start time for Sunday's series finale in order to avoid possible inclement weather in the area. First pitch is now scheduled for 12 Noon.
Visiting FAU went right to work for a run in the top of the first inning. Brendon Sanger singled and advanced to third base on consecutive ground outs. He scored on Tyler Rocklein's single to left for a 1-0 advantage.
Rice moved in front for good with a two-out rally in the bottom of the third. Hoelscher drew a leadoff walk and moved to scoring position on Ford Stainback's sacrifice bunt. Holescher sprinted home to tie the game on an RBI single by Leon Byrd, but Rice wasn't quite finished. Keenan Cook was hit by a pitch, Skyler Ewing doubled to the gap in left-center and John Clay Reeves followed with a single to right to push across three more runs for a 4-1 lead - all with two outs already recorded in the inning.
The two-out hitting continued with two more runs in each of the next two innings to build an 8-1 lead after five. Rice then posted matching three-run frames in both seventh and eighth to extend the streak of unanswered runs to 14. For the game Rice was 6-of-13 (.462) at the plate when batting with two away and the team was an eye-opening 10-for-15 (.667) with runners in scoring position. Head coach Wayne Graham liked what he saw after cleaning up some early defensive miscues.
"We had some people pick us up and eventually we played better," coach Graham said. "We had 17 hits, but also bunted well today. You can't ask for more lately."
Hoelscher tied his career-high with four hits and he set a new career-best with three doubles. Six Rice players had two or more hits, including senior Michael Aquino who also drove in three runs in the contest.
The offensive fireworks overshadowed another solid outing on the mound by sophomore starting pitcher Blake Fox. Fox battled back from the first inning FAU run to pitch 6.2 frames. He scattered eight hits and walked one while striking out three to earn his fourth win of the season. The Houston native is undefeated in his collegiate career, improving to 11-0 while at Rice. Ryan McCarthy worked the final 2.1 scoreless innings without allowing a hit and striking out three.
Rice improved to 18-6 on the season and 7-1 in conference games to hold first place in the league. FAU is now 14-9 on overall and 3-5 in C-USA. The C-USA series concludes Sunday at a new 12 Noon start time.