April 22, 2011
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HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team rallied from an early 4-1 deficit before using a big five-run fifth to the way to claiming a 9-5 Conference USA road victory over UAB in the opening game of a three-game league series Friday evening at J.D. Young Memorial Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Owls opened the scoring in the top of the first inning. Kennan Cook drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a ground out. He dashed for third on a UAB wild pitch and was able to score on a sacrifice fly by Craig Manuel for a 1-0 lead.
UAB answered with a total of four runs over the first three innings. In the bottom of the first the Blazers put runners on first and second base with a leadoff single and walk. Rice erased the lead runner at third base on attempted double steal, but Jamal Austin was still safe at second on the play. He was able to take third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground out that made it 1-1.
The Blazers moved in front with another run in the second. Harry Clark hit a leadoff double and a Rice fielding error on the play allowed him to move to third. He came home on an RBI ground out for what proved to be an unearned run. UAB scored for the third inning in a row, this time plating a pair of runs on four singles. The Blazers had made the most of six hits, a walk and two wild pitches through the first three frames.
The Owls pushed across a run in the fourth and then exploded for five runs in the fifth. In the fourth, Manuel and Michael Ratterree collected back-to-back singles and a walk to Michael Fuda loaded the bases. Manuel scored on Ryan Lewis' sacrifice fly that made the score 4-2.
In the fifth, Rice batted around to take its first lead of the game. J.T. Chargois singled, Anthony Rendon doubled and Manuel walked to load the bases. Ratterree followed with a single to left to plate two and tie the game, 4-4. With two men still on base, then Lewis lined a two-out base hit to right-center to score two more and extend the advantage to 7-4.
In UAB's half of the fifth, an RBI double by Patrick Palmiero scored John Frost to bring the Blazers back to within two, 7-5. UAB had a man reach third base in the seventh, and then two runners on in the eighth, but the Rice bullpen avoided the danger.
The Blue & Gray added two final insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Ratterre led off with a double. He scored easily on a triple down the right field line by Lewis. Lewis came home on a ground out that gave Rice its biggest lead with the least amount of game left to play, 9-5.
Lewis finished the game with a career-high four RBI on two hits, including his second-straight game with a triple. Ratterree led all players with three hits. The Owls out-hit UAB on the night 11-10.
Freshman Austin Kubitza started on the mound for the Owls and worked a total of 4.1 innings.He was relieved by Tyler Duffey and Tony Cingrani, who both came up with solid outings while the Rice offense turned up the pressure. Duffey pitched a season-long 3.1 innings without allowing a hit. He walked two and struck out three improved his record to 7-1 on the season. Cingrani earned his team-leading sixth save with 1.1 hitless frames. The senior left-hander did not walk a batter and struck out two.
Rice improved to 28-14 on the season and 9-4 in Conference USA action. The Blazers are now 21-17 overall and 6-7 in league play. The teams wrap-up the three-game series on Saturday with a double-header. The first game of the twinbill begins at 1 pm. The earliest the second game is scheduled to begin is 4:30 pm.