April 21, 2013Michael Ratterree went 2-for-3 with his second home run in as many days, and junior pitcher John Simms allowed just one run in a seven-inning complete game effort, as the Rice baseball team notched an 11-1 Conference USA run-rule victory over crosstown rival Houston Sunday afternoon at UH's Cougar Field.
With Sunday's win Rice improved to 28-14 on the season and 9-6 in C-USA action. The Owls moved into sole possession of second place in the league standings, one game behind leader Southern Miss (10-5 in C-USA).
Paired with a the Owls' 4-0 victory in game two on Saturday, Rice claimed the weekend series over the Cougars two games to one. By taking two of the only three regular season games between the crosstown rivals this year, the Owls have retained the Silver Glove Trophy - the coveted yearly prize that's on the line for the city's baseball rivals like the big showdowns in college football. Rice has won 15 of the 16 series with Houston since play for The Glove began in 1998. The Owls won the trophy in its first two years and have held the hardware now for 13 years in a row (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013).
Rice went right to work for the lead in the top of the first. Leon Byrd singled up the middle and Christian Stringer followed with a walk. Both runners advanced on Ford Stainback's sacrifice bunt, and Byrd trotted home on Ratterree's RBI one-out single to right field.
Fresh-off holding a narrow 1-0 advantage for the better part of five nail-biting innings in Saturday's tight pitcher's duel, the Rice offense struck for substantially more breathing room earlier in Sunday's contest. In the top of the third the Blue & Gray sent 11 men to the plate for a seven-run outburst, the team's biggest inning of the year. Byrd led off with a double to the gap in left-center and Stringer was hit by a pitch. Ratterree was walked with one away to load the bases and Keenan Cook followed with a single to left that scored two. Shane Hoelscher and Michael Aquino followed with RBI singles and Geoff Perrott laced a double down the left field line that plated two more. Skyler Ewing then collected the fifth-straight hit of the inning to score Perrot. Rice had stretched the lead to 8-0 on six hits in the inning.
Houston struck back for a run in the fourth. With one away Justin Montemayor singled and Jonathan Davis doubled to left. Montemayor scored on a ground out to make it 8-1.
The run was the first allowed by the Owls pitching staff in 13-consecutive innings of the series dating back to Friday's game. It was the only run off Simms in a sound and solid start. The veteran right-hander worked all 7.0 frames, surrendering the one run on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts.
Simms was able to register his team-leading second complete game because the offense came alive again in the top of the seventh. Ratterree started it off with a deep blast over the left field wall. The homer was his fifth of the season and the 27th of his collegiate career. Rice scored twice more for a ten-run lead, 11-1. Simms closed out the Cougars in the bottom of the inning to end the game via the C-USA's Sunday 10-run rule. One of the best Houston teams in years is now 27-13 overall and 7-5 in conference.
Four Owls finished with two hits on the day in a 12-hit attack. The offensive explosion helped Rice's representation on the annual all-series team, including Ratteree as the Most Outstanding Player. Not only did Ratterree hit .545 and lead all series players with six hits and five RBI, the two round-trippers gave him eye-opening 1.091 slugging percentage for the weekend. Ratterre was also named the Outstanding Player in his sophomore season of 2011. The 2013 all-series honorees included: Ratterree (Rice, Most Outstanding Player), Byrd (Rice), Jonathan Davis (UH), Austin Kubitza (Rice), Justin Montemayor (UH), Perrott (Rice), Austin Pruitt (UH), Frankie Ratcliffe (UH), Simms (Rice), Stainback (Rice), Kyle Survance (UH) and Josh Viddles (UH).
Rice has wrapped-up the weekend road swing. The Owls next get a break in the playing schedule while the University enters its quiet period prior to the upcoming final exams of the spring semester. Rice returns to the diamond with a home game against longtime rival Lamar on May 1. First pitch against the Cardinals is set 6:30 pm at Reckling Park.
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