HOUSTON -- The Rice baseball team pounded-out a season-high 15 hits, including the Owls' first grand slam in two years, to claim a 9-3 Conference USA victory over visiting Western Kentucky Friday evening at Reckling Park.
With the win Rice improved to 22-11 on the year and 10-3 in C-USA league play. The Owls got offensive Friday to move within one game of sharing the lead in the conference standings.
Down 1-0 for the first half of the contest after Western Kentucky quickly jumped on the scoreboard for a run in the top of the first inning, Rice came alive with a big seven-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth. Connor Teykl and Tristan Gray hit consecutive singles to start the frame and Hunter Kopycinski followed with a sacrifice bunt to advance both men in what had every appearance of a nip-and-tuck duel. The Owls were then down to their final out of the inning after WKU made a defensive play on a come-back shot to the mound, but the rally was actually just beginning.
Sophomore Ryan Chandler drew a walk to load the bases, and all the Owls were then safe and the score was tied (1-1) on Dane Myers' infield single. Freshman Dominic DiCaprio lined a single to right field to drive-in two more for a 3-1 Rice lead. Ford Proctor reached on another infield hit to load the bases, but the team wasn't finished. Dayne Wunderlich followed with a long blast to left-center field for his third homer of the season and first collegiate grand slam. Rice's first grand slam since John Clay Reeves in 2014 had rocketed Rice to a new 7-1 advantage.
Rice continued to apply the offensive pressure with another run in the sixth before a final score in the seventh. The insurance runs were more than welcome as WKU continued to fight. The Hilltoppers battled back for two more runs on two hits late in the contest in a 9-3 final.
Eight different Owls hit safely on the night and scored a run. Grayson Lewis and Proctor co-led the charge with three hits each, new single-game career highs for both players.
Almost lost in the offensive fireworks was a nine strikeout night for Owl starter Jon Duplantier. The right-hander improved to 4-3 on the season working 6.1 innings. Freshman left-hander Evan Kravetz was sound and solid working the final 2.2 frames allowing just a hit and a walk with a big strikeout.
WKU is now 18-15 on the season and 6-7 in C-USA action. The two teams continue the weekend series, but with two completely new game times due to impending weather conditions in Houston area.
The teams are now scheduled to play a double-header on Saturday (April 16) starting at 12 noon, and there will be no game on Sunday (April 17). The second game of the Saturday double-header is scheduled to begin 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first. Note that Reckling Park will NOT be cleared between the games.
The updated schedule is as follows (all games at Reckling Park):
Western Kentucky at Rice at 12 Noon (game 1 of DH)
Western Kentucky at Rice (game 2 of DH, 45 minutes after conclusion)
Check RiceOwls.com or follow Rice Baseball on Twitter @RiceOwlsBSB for real time updates.