Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HOUSTON -- Visiting Florida International overcame an early 5-0 deficit for a 7-5 win over the Rice baseball team in the finale of the three-game Conference USA weekend series Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Rice proved it was able to score early in both of the first two games of the series, putting up a combined total of five first inning runs in both halves of Saturday's double-header. The Owls' first inning Sunday was both the best of the series and the season.
A Ford Proctor single and a pair of walks quickly loaded the bases with one away. Proctor scored on Tristan Gray's sacrifice fly, but with just two outs Rice was not quite finished. Charlie Warren drew a walk to re-load the stations and Darryn Sheppard followed with a grand-slam home run to left-center field. Sheppard's third round-tripper of the season gave Rice a 5-0 advantage and the most runs the team has scored in the first inning this year.
FIU quickly battled back. In the top of the second inning the Panthers scored three runs on J.C. Escarra's fourth home run of the season. FIU then took the lead, 6-5, on four-consecutive hits in the fourth including back-to-back doubles. The Panthers added one final insurance run in the fifth to go up 7-5, and held Rice in check for the remainder of the contest despite the Owls putting a runner on base in every inning.
Rice attempted one final rally in the bottom of the ninth, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate with two away. FIU worked out of the jam with a strikeout to win the game 7-5 and the series two games to one. The Owls are now 7-19 on the season and 1-5 in C-USA. The Panthers are now 14-10 overall and 3-3 in conference.
Rice has concluded the weekend homestand and next begins a five-game road swing lasting thru April 4. The Owls play longtime foe Sam Houston State on March 28 (Tues.). First pitch at Don Sanders Stadium in Huntsville, Texas, is set for 6:30 pm.