March 27, 2011
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HOUSTON - Visiting UCF held-off the Rice baseball team in the late innings to claim a 5-4 Conference USA win over the Owls in the finale of the three-game league series Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park. With the win UCF claimed the three-game weekend series two games to one.
Trailing 5-3 to start the bottom of the eighth, Shane Hoelscher and Michael Ratterree knocked singles to Owls on first and third. Hoelscher scored on Michael Aquino's fielder's choice to cut the Knight lead to 5-4, but an error on the play allowed Aquino to move into scoring position. UCF worked out of the inning and then hung on in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 final.
UCF is 18-6 overall and 2-1 in conference. Rice fell to 16-11 on the season 1-2 in C-USA action. The Owls have started the 2011 C-USA slate the way the team did in 2010. A year ago Rice began league play with an identical 1-2 mark but bounced back to win the C-USA regular season championship by winning 16 of the next 21 conference games.
On Sunday the Knights opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first inning. Ronnie Richardson hit a one-out triple to left-center and scored on a ground out to the right side.
UCF doubled the margin with a run in the fourth. The Knights loaded the bases on two hits and a walk. Erik Hempe singled up the middle to drive in a run for a 2-0 game.
The Owls came right back with three runs in the bottom of the frame to take the lead. Michael Fuda singled through the left side in his return to the starting lineup since he was sidelined a month a ago. He hustled for two bases on a base hit up the middle by Anthony Rendon. Fuda scored on Craig Manuel's sacrifice fly to make it 2-1. Hoelscher and Ratterree both drew walks to load the bases. Freshman Derek Hamilton followed with a single to left-center to drive-in two and a 3-2 Owl lead.
The Knights tied the game in the top of the fifth. Richardson led off with a walk and moved to scoring position with a stolen base. He scored on a Rice wild pitch that made it 3-3.
UC broke the deadlock with two more in the sixth. A pair of singles by Hempe and Derek Luciano put runners on first and third. Hempe scored on a ground out, and three more walks forced-in a run that put the Knights in front 5-3.
Rice had men in scoring position in the sixth and seventh before rallying for the run in the eighth. Rendon finished the game with three hits, including a double and a run scored. Hamilton collected a career-best three hits and drove-in two of the team's four runs. Sophomore right-hander Tyler Duffey was solid on the mound for the Owls. The local standout from Bellaire High School worked 3.0 scoreless frames, scattering just two hits and striking out three.
The Owls wrap-up their current five-game homestand on Tuesday (Mar. 29). Rice hosts crosstown rival Houston in game two of the annual season-long best-of-five series for the Silver Glove Trophy. Start time with the Cougars is set for 6:36 pm at Reckling Park. The game will be televised by Comcast Sports Southwest (CSS).