March 29, 2013
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HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team overcame a pair of Tulane leads and then held-off a late Green Wave rally for a 6-3 Conference USA victory Friday evening at Reckling Parking on Houston.
Rice has won the first two games of the three-game weekend series to improve to 20-9 overall and 4-1 in C-USA action. Tulane is now 14-15 on the season and 2-3 in league play.
Tulane quickly opened the scoring in the top of the second inning. Two hits and an Owl fielding error staked the Green Wave a 2-0 advantage.
The Owls chipped away for run in the bottom of the fourth after a leadoff single by Christian Stringer and a wild pitch that allowed him to advance to second. Michael Aquino followed with a liner into right field for the first of his three hits on the night and a 2-1 game.
The Blue & Gray then tied it in the fifth. Michael Ratterree reached on a fielder's choice and stole second to move into scoring position. Sophomore Ford Stainback chopped a base hit deep into the hole on the left side that the defense was able to get to, but Ratterree kept right on running around third and slid-in to tie the game, 2-2.
Tulane answered with a run in the top of the sixth. Blake Crohan led off with a single to left and advanced to second on a ground out. He scored on Sean Potkay's RBI single that put the Green Wave back in front, 3-2.
Rice batted around in its half of the sixth for three runs and a lead it would not relinquish. Where the Owls had some solid hitting, like doubles by Aquino and Skyler Ewing and an RBI single by Geoff Perrott, the Blue & Gray also took advantage of three consecutive walks by Tulane pitchers. The walks forced in two more runs and turned the game around, 5-3. Rice then stretched the margin to 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single by Ewing in a career-high tying three-hit night.
There was still plenty of drama from a determined Tulane squad. The Green Wave had two runners on base in the seventh before upping the ante in the ninth. With two away, Tulane proceeded to load the bases and bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate.
Owl sophomore reliever Zech Lemond ended the threat to earn a save for the second time in as many nights. The right-hander from Houston registered his eighth save of the season for 2.1 scoreless innings. Starting pitcher Jordan Stephens improved to 4-2 after working 6.2 innings where he allowed one earned run on eight hits while striking out four.
"Jordan always does a workman-like job," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "Zech got us out of (a runners-on-base situation) again and we were fortunate because that last ball they hit was pretty hard.
"You're always happy when you get a series," coach Graham added. It's imperative we try and get one more. It's not over."
On the offensive side the Owls finished with 11 hits and drew a season-high seven walks. Aquino and Ewing both had three hits, a double and an RBI.
The three-game C-USA series concludes Saturday, March 30, at Reckling Park. First pitch is slated 2 pm.