BEAUMONT, Texas - The Rice baseball team held-off a ninth-inning rally for a dramatic 4-3 road victory over longtime foe Lamar Tuesday evening at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont.
With a 4-2 lead to start the bottom of the ninth, the Owls had one last battle to fight before claiming the team's 20th win of the season. Lamar designated hitter Kyle Markum drew a leadoff walk and an RBI double by Kevin Santana made it 4-3 with a runner in scoring position and none away.
Owl freshman reliever Josh Pettitte was then able to get the first out of the ninth with a strikeout, but Rice went to veteran Matt Ditman to end the rally. Ditman struck out his first batter, but an infield hit deep in the hole at short now put runners at the corners. It brought the Lamar fans to their feet, but an infield ground-out on a fielder's choice preserved the 4-3 final.
Ditman notched his team-leading fifth save of the season. It was also the 14th of his collegiate career to move him into a three-way tie for third on the Owls' all-time saves list.
Rice improved to 20-11 on the season. Lamar is now 13-15 overall.
The Blue & Gray struck early for three runs on a pair of hits and two Cardinal fielding errors in the top of the second inning. Charlie Warren drew a leadoff walk and stole second to move into scoring position. A throwing error on an attempt to try and pick Warren off second base, however, sailed into centerfield allowing Warren to trot to third.
Warren scored easily on Tristan Gray's one-out single to the right side for the first run. John Williamson followed with an identical single to right to put runners on the corners, but another Cardinal error allowed Gray to score and Williamson an extra station to third base. It was costly as Williamson scored on Hunter Kopycinski's sacrifice fly to right for the 3-0 advantage.
Lamar came right back with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Santana singled up the middle and scored on Mason Salazar's triple to right-center. Salazar came home on a wild pitch to make the score 3-2.
There was still a lot of baseball left to play, but a solid long-relief outing from Austin Orewiler helped keep the Cardinals in check. The right-hander from Galveston scattered four hits over the next five 5.0 innings to keep the one-run lead intact. Orewiler finished with six strikeouts and issued just one walk to imrprove to 4-0 on the season.
Orewiler was in a groove, but the Owls still needed some insurance. Ford Stainback started the top of the eighth with a base hit to right. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Leon Byrd and hustled home on a double to the gap in left-center by Kirby Taylor.
The run was huge, as Lamar continued to battle into the ninth. In the game Taylor went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI to extend his hitting streak to 11-straight games. Charlie Warren stretched his hitting streak to 19-consecuitive and he has reached base in 22-straight.
The Owls next return home to host Middle Tennessee in C-USA weekend series April 3-5. Friday start time against the Blue Raiders is set for 6:30 pm.