HOUSTON - Rice junior right-hander Kevin McCanna tied a career-high with eight strikeouts in 7.0 innings to help lift the Owls' baseball team to a 6-3 victory over visiting Southern Miss in the opening game of the Conference USA weekend series Friday evening at Reckling Park in Houston.
The Rice offense quickly supported their starter with a pair of first-inning runs. True freshman Ryan Chandler drew a leadoff walk and Ford Stainback followed with a double down the left field line to put runners on the corners. Chandler scored on Leon Byrd's sacrifice fly and Stainback dashed home on Kirby Taylor's RBI single to right field.
Southern Miss put runners on base in each of the first three innings before breaking through for runs in the fourth. Golden Eagle collected hits in the inning, including four in a row during one stretch, to take the lead 3-2. USM was looking for more, but McCanna regrouped to strike out the final two batters and end the threat.
The Owls came right back to take the lead in the bottom of the inning. John Clay Reeves started it off with a walk and three consecutive singles by Charlie Warren, Tristan Gray and Connor Teykl put the Blue & Gray back in front, 4-3.
Stainback and Byrd started the fifth with a walk and hit by pitch, respectively. Reeves punched a single to left to score Stainback. Byrd reached third on the play and came home as Taylor hustled to reach on a fielder's choice that stretched the margin to 6-3.
That proved to be more than enough room for McCanna and reliever Josh Pettitte. McCanna tied his season-long outing of 7.0 innings. He finished the night allowing just the three runs on seven hits, while striking out eight without any walks.
Pettitte was just as sharp over the final two innings. He allowed two singles without any walks while striking out three to earn his first collegiate save.
Rice improved to 18-10 overall and 8-2 in C-USA action. Southern Miss is 14-9-1 on the year and 3-3 in league play. The three-game series continues through Sunday (March 29). Saturday's start time is set 2 pm.