April 9, 2013
The Owls had to rally in the ninth inning for their 24th win of the season in the finale of a rugged four-game road stretch. Michael Aquino led off with a double to the left field corner for his third hit of the game. He raced to third on Keenan Cook's fly ball to right and took another 90 feet for the go-ahead run on Michael Ratterree's sacrifice fly to break the deadlock, 9-8.
At the outset it didn't look as though the game would be that close. The Blue & Gray had actually built an 8-1 margin early in the contest, only to watch a veteran Lamar team battle back to tie the score inning-by-inning - all after officials halted the game for more than an hour in the bottom of the third due to lightning.
The wind meanwhile, which had stadium flags that were only a few yards from each other blowing in different directions, also played havoc on the defenses for both teams. Rice quickly jumped on the scoreboard for four runs in the top of the first and another two more in the second, all on a total of just two base hits.
Both of Rice's first two hitters, Leon Byrd and Christian Stringer, drew walks. Aquino hit a one-out triple to left field to score both men but the Blue & Gray weren't finished. Two Cardinal fielding errors helped plate two more.
The Owls turned some alertness and hustle into two more runs in the second inning. With two away Stringer struck out, but the ball got away and the senior dashed down to first base. He went to second on a wild pitch, and then advanced two stations when Ford Stainback reached on a fielding error. Stainback went to third on Aquino's second base hit of the night and scored on a wild pitch.
Ratterree led off the third with a single and Shane Hoelscher was hit by a pitch. Both advanced to scoring position on Skyler Ewing's sacrifice bunt. Ratterree scored on a Lamar passed ball and Hoelscher scored easily on Hunter Kopycinski's single up the middle.
Freshman Blake Fox made his first collegiate start on the mound for Rice. The Houston native allowed four runs in a career-long 3.1 innings. In the middle of his outing he endured the 72-minute weather delay. The Cardinals scored a run in the first and third before a four-run fourth (which was after play was halted) to make the score 8-6.
Lamar added two more runs to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, 8-8. Both were unearned after an earlier Owl error would have ended the rally.
The Owls went to another freshman pitcher, Kevin McCanna, who looked sharp to keep the Cards off the scoreboard for the final 2.1 frames. McCanna did not allow any hits or walks on the way to the second win of his collegiate career.
Rice improved to 24-11 on the season. Lamar is now 24-10 overall.
Rice has wrapped-up its four-game road swing and returns home to Reckling Park for its next five games beginning on Friday, April 12. The Owls host Conference USA foe UCF in a three-game weekend series. Start time against the Knights are 6:36 on Friday, 2 pm on Saturday and 1 pm on Sunday.