HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team posted a pair of solid outings to claim both games of a Conference USA double-header over visiting UTSA Saturday at Reckling Park by the scores of 9-8 and 8-2.
With the wins Rice improved to 26-14 overall and 14-6 in C-USA action. The Roadrunners are now 22-17 on the year and 9-8 in conference.
Rain in the area washed-away the Friday opener of the three-game weekend series, setting up a new Saturday twin-bill. Rice responded to the long, 18-inning day with a pair of key victories to stretch the current win streak to four-straight. The Owls finished the day with a total of 25 hits while six members of the pitching staff combined for an eye-opening 20 strikeouts.
"We needed to win to both games, and we needed to play well to be able to do it," Rice head coach Wayne Graham said. "We hit the ball pretty well most of the day and I didn't realize we had struck out as many as we did (a total of 15 in game two alone)."
Not only did Owl junior catcher Hunter Kopycinski play all 18 frames behind the plate, he went a combined 5-for-8 (.625) in the two games with four runs scored and two RBI. Senior second baseman Ford Stainback was a combined 3-for-6 with four RBI, a pair of walks and two SAC flys.
Rice had to hold-off a couple of UTSA rallies, including a pressure-packed ninth, to take the first game 9-8. The Owls were up 5-0 after four innings, but the Roadrunners cut it to 5-4 in the fifth. Rice stretched the margin to 9-6 heading to the top of the ninth on 11 hits, but UTSA again came back for a pair of runs.
The Roadrunners had the go-ahead run on base in the ninth before Austin Orewiler came out of the bullpen to end the threat and earn his first save. Matt Ditman improved to 3-1 with 4.0 steady innings of relief to tie for his longest outing of the season.
In game two, Kopycinski singled-home a run in the bottom of the fourth to break a 2-2 deadlock for a 3-2 Rice advantage. The Blue & Gray then sent ten men to the plate in the sixth for five big runs that put the game out of reach.
Junior right-hander Jordan Stephens started on the mound and struck out seven in 5.0 innings of work. On the way to notching his fourth win of the season, the veteran also registered the 200th strikeout of his collegiate career.
Strikeouts proved to be in abundance in the nightcap. Stephens gave-way to true freshman Glenn Otto, who proceeded to fan a career-high seven in 3.0 scoreless frames. Junior left-hander Austin Solecitto had one strikeout in a scoreless ninth.
Kopycinski had three hits in a 14-hit attack. Five Owls finished the night with at least two hits.
The C-USA weekend series concludes on Sunday (April 19). First pitch is scheduled for 1 pm at Reckling Park.