HOUSTON -- Freshman and Beaumont native Ford Proctor went 3-for-4 with one of the Rice baseball team's season-high seven extra-base hits, while fellow freshman Zach Esquivel was solid in his first career start on the mound to pace the Owls to a 7-2 victory over visiting Lamar Wednesday evening at Reckling Park in Houston.
Lamar was first on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning. With one away Cardinal third baseman Robin Adames connected on a pitch for his third homerun of the season and a 1-0 lead.
Rice answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the third on triples by both Dominic DiCaprio and Ryan Chandler. Two triples in the same inning may not be the most-common of ways to get on the board, but the extra-base hits soon seemed almost contagious.
After Rice took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Proctor alertly hustling home from third on a Cardinal wild pitch, the Owls went on an extra-base spree. DiCaprio led off with a double to left, and scored easily on Charlie Warren's one-out triple to the gap in right-center. Warren trotted home on a sacrifice fly by Chandler, but the Blue & Gray wasn't finished. Dane Myers doubled to center and Proctor followed by driving a double off the wall in right for a 5-1 Rice advantage.
Esquivel meanwhile had settled-in for the best game of his collegiate career. The right-hander from League City retired 12 in a row during one stretch to work his way into the sixth inning. Esquivel finished his first career start pitching a career-best 5.2 innings, scattering four hits with no walks while striking out a career-high six. He was in a tight spot in the sixth with one away and two men in scoring position, but first Myers made a sensational diving stop on a grounder to the left side that held the Cardinal runners in check. Reliever Glenn Otto then ended the threat with a dramatic strikeout.
With 31 wins already under their belt Lamar continued to battle. The Cardinals added a run on three hits in the eighth, but Rice came right back with two more in the bottom of the frame. Proctor laced a leadoff single up the middle and scored on Tristan Gray's long double to center. Gray touched home on Grayson Lewis' RBI single that stretched the margin to 7-2.
Myers, who had moved from third base to the mound, closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth. It was a sound win for Rice over a good team. The Owls improved to 28-14 on the season. Lamar is now 31-12 overall.
The Owls have concluded the current homestand and are back on the road for Conference USA league play starting on Friday (May 6). Rice plays a three-game weekend series at FIU. Game times vs. the Panthers are set for 5:30 pm (Central Time) on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday's first pitch is set for 11 am (Central Time). The Blue & Gray enter the week tied with Southern Miss for first place in the C-USA standings, and with just nine more league games left to play.