March 23, 2013Jordan Stephens and Zech Lemond combined on a four-hit shutout to pace the Rice baseball team to a 4-0 Conference USA road victory at Southern Miss in the second game of a three-game league series Saturday in Hattiesburg, Miss.
With the win Rice, now 17-9 overall, tied the series 1-1 heading into Sunday's finale of the weekend set. Southern Miss moved to 9-13 on the year and 1-1 in conference action after claiming Friday's series-opener by a score of 10-1.
The Golden Eagles' 10-run effort on Friday night made Saturday's shutout as impressive as a win was critical to the early C-USA chase. In his sixth start of the season Stephens was sound and solid. The Alvin, Tex., native scattered four hits and walk for 7.0 shutout innings. He struck out seven to collect his third win of the season and lower his season ERA to 2.44.
Stephens left with a 3-0 lead and Lemond was just as sharp to keep the shutout intact for the final two frames. Lemond did not allow any hits nor walks while recording one strikeout on the way to his fifth save this season.
On the offensive side the Owls chipped-away for single runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings. The contest included a 35-minute rain delay in the Southern Miss third that seemed to soften the scoring punch for both sides.
Rice opened the scoring in the top of the third inning. Designated hitter Michael Aquino lined a two-out double to the gap in right-centerfield. Michael Ratterree followed with an RBI single up the middle for a 1-0 advantage.
The Blue & Gray added the second run in the fourth. Keenan Cook bunted for a base hit and Geoff Perrott was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second base. Both advanced on Connor Teykl's sacrifice bunt, and Cook was then able to score on an RBI fielder's choice by Leon Byrd.
Rice needed only one hit for its third run in the sixth. Skyler Ewing drew a leadoff walk and moved into scoring position on Cook's sacrifice bunt. Perrott punched a base hit into right-center for an RBI that extended the Owl lead to 3-0.
Cook and Perrott both finished with two hits each to lead an eight-hit Rice attack. Perrott made a nice throw on a USM stolen base attempt to erase on Golden Eagle runner. Teykl saved a run by snaring a sharp line drive at third base with two outs and a runner at second. Stephens silenced the last USM threat in the seventh that stranded a runner at third.
The teams wrap-up the three game conference weekend series on Sunday. First pitch is slated for 1 pm at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg.
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