March 23, 2014
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HOUSTON -- Skyler Ewing's two-out, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 12th inning lifted the Rice baseball team to a 3-2 victory over visiting Florida Atlantic in the finale of the three-game Conference USA league series Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park.
With the sweep of the weekend series Rice won its ninth-straight game to improve to 19-6 on the year and a league-leading 8-1 in C-USA action. FAU moved to 14-10 overall and 3-6 in conference.
FAU was on scoreboard first with a run in the top of the fourth. Stephen Kerr led off with a double to left-center and a single by Levi Meyer put runners at the corners. Kerr scored on a fielder's choice for a 1-0 lead, but it was the only run in the inning.
Rice came right back to gain the advantage in its turn to bat. Keenan Cook led off with a double near the left field line and he hustled to third on a wild pitch. Ewing drove him home with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. John Clay Reeves followed with a home run to left. His second longball of the season put Rice on top 2-1.
FAU was down to its final six outs when CJ Chatham led off the top of the eighth with a solo home run to right field. His second homer knotted-up the score to send the game into extra innings.
In the bottom of the 12th, Michael Aquino drew a leadoff walk and Ford Stainback followed with a slow rolling bunt on the first base line that drew a crowd of defenders. The ball stayed fair for base hit and to put runners on first and second with none away.
A sacrifice bunt by Charlie Warren, a Leon Byrd walk, and strikeout brought Ewing to the plate with the bases loaded and two away. The Arlington, Texas, native slapped the first pitch into left-center field to score Aquino for the 3-2 final.
Were Rice managed to get men on base in the ninth, tenth and eleventh innings, FAU did not have success in the late stages of the game against Rice reliever Matt Ditman. Ditman entered the game after Chatham's eighth-inning home run and proceeded to retire each of the 12 FAU batters he faced.
In 5.0 innings of work Ditman struck out eight. There was only one time where FAU got the ball outside the infield, and that was a shallow but tricky fly caught by Byrd on the grass back from his spot at shortstop. Ditman improved to 2-2 on the season with a win in relief.
"That is a very big win to get today because that is a very good team," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "Skyler's aggressive, and he went up there (in the 12th) with the intent to win the game. He came up big, which we're getting accustomed to seeing from him.
"Matt was awesome today, he's just been incredible in that role," coach Graham added. "He is as important as any player on the team right now. His teammates have a lot of confidence in him, and with good reason."
Rice next plays a road game at the University of Houston on Tuesday night (March 25) before returning back to Reckling Park for a Wednesday game vs. Lamar. The start time for both respective contests is set for 6:30 pm.