COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The Rice baseball team battled No. 1 ranked Texas A&M with double-digit hits and a solid effort on the mound from three pitchers, but the Aggies rallied for the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning to slip away with a 4-3 home win over the visiting Owls Tuesday night in College Station.
With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, A&M drew a one-out walk and put runners on the corners with a single to right. The Owls got the second out with a strikeout, and appeared to be getting out of trouble with a soft ground ball to the left side. Though the ball may not have been enough to clear the infield dirt, it was just deep enough in the hole for an RBI single and a 4-3 lead to send the game to the ninth.
Texas A&M held the lead in the ninth to improve to 31-2 overall. Rice, which led 3-1 midway through the contest, is now 22-13 on the season.
The Aggies were the first to get on the scoreboard. In the bottom of the third, Michael Barash led off with a single to center and moved to scoring position on a tough one-out chopper behind the mound. He scored on a double to right-center by Mitchell Nau for the 1-0 advantage.
Rice came right back with a run in the top of the fourth. Senior Ford Stainback singled to extend his current hitting streak to nine games. He advanced to second on a ground out to the right side, and sprinted home on an RBI single up the middle by senior John Clay Reeves.
The Owls added two more in the fifth. Kirby Taylor hustled for a leadoff double to left-center. Hunter Kopycinski dropped a one-out single into shallow right to put runners at the corners. True freshman Ryan Chandler laced a double to left-center to drive home one run, but the Blue & Gray weren't finished. Kopycinski dashed home on an RBI grounder by Stainback for a 3-1 advantage.
Texas A&M used the longball to tie the game in the seventh. Back-to-back solo home runs by J.B. Moss and Logan Nottebrok leveled the score at 3-3.
Junior Austin Orewiler started on the mound for Rice and registered a solid outing. The right-hander scattered seven hits and one walk over 6.1 innings. He left the game with the lead, surrendering two runs while striking out four. Josh Pettitte and Matt Ditman also saw mound duty for Rice.
Rice came up just short on an offensive chance in the eighth. Charlie Warren bunted for a base hit with one away, and Connor Teykl roped a single through the right side to give the Owls a first and third situation. A&M though then turned a come-backer to the mound into a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning. The defensive play gave A&M a lift to start the bottom of the eighth.
The Owls' current road swing continues through Sunday. Rice next plays a Conference USA weekend series at UAB April 10-12. Friday's first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 pm in Birmingham, Ala.