March 25, 2011
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HOUSTON - The visiting UCF baseball team held-off Rice scoring threats in the early innings before pulling away with runs in the later frames for a 7-2 win over the Owls in the Conference USA league-opener for both teams Friday night at Reckling in Houston.
Rice had the leadoff man on base in each of the first three innings, including two men on base in both of the first two innings, but escaped danger by turning three double-plays.
The Owls broke the trend to open the scoring in the bottom of the fourth. Anthony Rendon and Michael Ratterree both reached base via walks. The runners moved into scoring position on one wild pitch, and then another 90 feet on second wild pitch and a 1-0 lead. Ratterree came home on a ground out to the right side to double the margin to 2-0.
UCF answered in the top of the fifth, D.J. Hicks and Beau Taylor both singled. Erik Hempe attempted a sacrifice bunt, but reached second on a two-base Owl fielding error that allowed Hicks to score and sent Taylor to third. Taylor came home on Derek Luciano's sacrifice fly to tie the score. Hempe scored from third base on Ronnie Richardson's single to put the Knights in front 3-2.
Rice was back on the offensive, putting men on base in each of the last four innings. The Blue & Gray worked to get its leadoff man in seven of the nine frames. Three UCF pitchers teamed to keep the Owls off the board in the seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively.
With the score still just 3-2 heading to the top of the eighth, the Knights got one insurance run on Hempe's RBI single. UCF added three more runs on three hits and two walks in the top of the ninth to extend the lead to 7-2.
Rice fell to 15-10 overall and 0-1 in C-USA action. The Owls saw their five-game win streak come to an end, but there was some good news from the game. Veteran outfielder Michael Fuda, who had been sidelined with an injury, played for the first time this month. He hustled-out a throw for a fielder's choice in his only at-bat. Along with Rendon returning defensively at third base, Rice is getting some familiar faces back.
UCF improved to 17-5 on the season and 1-0 in conference. The C-USA series continues at Reckling Park through Sunday. Start times with the Knights are set for 2 pm Saturday and 1 pm on Sunday.