May 4, 2013
Jordan Stephens posted a career-high 11 strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work, but the Owl baseball team had to hold-off an eighth inning UAB rally before claiming a 5-4 Conference USA road victory over the Blazers Saturday evening at Young Memorial Field in Birmingham, Ala.
With the win Rice leveled the three-game C-USA weekend series 1-1. The series finale is scheduled for a new 10 am start time Sunday at UAB's Young Memorial Field.
UAB quickly jumped on the scoreboard for a run off Stephens in the bottom of the first inning. Ivan De Jesus led off with a double to right-center and scored on Ryan Prinzing's base hit to left field. Stephens took control after that, while his teammates on offense soon went to work.
The Owls tied the game and then took the lead with single runs in the second and third innings, and on both occasions the Blue & Gray did it with two out already recorded. In the second Geoff Perrott stroked a two-out double into the left-field corner and scored when Skyler Ewing followed with an RBI single to left-center.
In the top of the third Christian Stringer led off with a double to right-center and advanced on a ground-ball out. He scored on Keenan Cook's two-out single to the right side that put Rice in front 2-1.
The Owls weren't quite finished. In the fourth Ford Stainback knocked a one-out double down the left field line and Leon Byrd singled to put runners at the corners. Stainback trotted home on Stringer's sacrifice fly to make the score 3-1.
Rice extended the margin to 5-1 in the sixth. Perrott and Ewing drew back-to-back walks and both scored on consecutive singles by Stainback and Byrd.
Stephens meanwhile was in high-gear. He worked into the bottom of the eighth having allowed just four hits and three walks with double-digit strikeouts. The Alvin, Tex., native would have completed eight full frames, but the Owls couldn't convert a possible double-play grounder that kept the Blazers alive at the plate.
UAB then got even more help in the eighth on a strikeout and wild pitch that put Blazer runners on first and third. Three-consecutive singles after that scored three UAB runs and had cut the lead to just one, 5-4, with the tying run just 90 feet away at third base.
Rice sophomore reliever Zech Lemond finally ended the Blazer rally with a strikeout. There was considerably less drama in the ninth as Lemond fanned the first two batters and got an easy fly ball to end the game. He notched his team-leading tenth save, tied for the fourth-highest single-season total in school history.
Rice improved to 30-15 on the season and 10-7 in C-USA action. UAB fell to 18-30 overall and 4-13 against the league. The teams conclude the weekend conference series on Sunday.