HOUSTON -- The Rice baseball team bounced back from an early deficit with eight unanswered runs on the way to an 8-2 Conference USA victory over visiting Old Dominion Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park in Houston. With the win the Owls completed a three-game sweep of the weekend series and grabbed a share of the lead in the C-USA standings with a 5-1 league record.
All week Rice had played well to stretch its growing win streak to four-straight. The Owls took the first two games of conference set on Friday and Saturday, but quickly learned Sunday's C-USA finale would be yet another battle.
Old Dominion pushed across a pair of runs in the top of the third. After Nick Lustrino and Turner Bishop hit singles to start the inning off a Rice passed ball allowed both runners an extra 90 feet. Lustrino was able to score on Connor Myers' single to shallow left and Bishop scored on a ground-out to the right.
The Owls were behind but came right back with a run in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single by Charlie Warren to score Connor Teykl. Immediately cutting the margin back down to one run seemed to help Rice starting pitcher Ricardo Salinas settle-in for another solid outing.
Salinas proceeded to fire another 4.0 scoreless innings and post a new career-high with nine strikeouts. Though still down 2-1 as the game moved into the final three innings, Salinas' teammates on the offensive side came through with four big runs for him in the seventh to put the Owls in front, 5-2.
Rice extended the margin with three more in the eighth. After back-to-back doubles by Ford Proctor and Dane Meyers plated one, Grayson Lewis' blasted a one-out pitch over the wall in left. His second homer of the season put the Blue & Gray up by six, 8-2, with eight unanswered runs.
The Monarchs continued to fight and put two runners on base in both the eighth and ninth. Owl sophomore right-hander Glenn Otto, however, finished out the final 2.0 innings after Salinas to notch his team-leading fourth save of the season. Five Rice players collected at least two hits in a 13-hit afternoon. Senior catcher Hunter Kopycinski led all players with a season-high three hits.
Rice improved to 14-9 overall with the team's fifth-straight victory. The Owls also closed out the weekend owning a share of first place in the C-USA standings, joining red-hot Southern Miss and Florida Atlantic with identical 5-1 league records. Old Dominion is now 18-7 on the season and 3-3 in conference.
Rice concludes its current homestand on Tuesday (March 29). The Owls host longtime foe Sam Houston State at Reckling Park. Start time vs. the Bearkats is set for 6:30 pm.