May 4, 2012
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HOUSTON -- The University of Houston jumped out to an early lead on the way to an 11-6 win over the Rice baseball team in the opening game of a three-game Conference USA weekend series Friday night at the Owls' Reckling Park.
With the win the Cougars snapped Rice's streak of 16-straight victories over UH that dated back to 2009. Houston also evened-up the season-long four-game series between the two teams with the remaining games set for Saturday and Sunday.
Houston scored five runs in the top of the second on four hits and a hit batsman. The big blow was a three-run home run to left by Landon Appling for his third homer of the year. The Cougars then stretched the margin to 8-0 by sending eight men to the plate for three more runs in the top of the third.
"(Houston's) a pretty good fastball-hitting team and they did a good job of hitting," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "They had a good day with the bat and you have to give them credit."
Rice hitting came alive for four runs over the third and fourth innings. Shane Hoelscher and Ford Stainback started the third with back-to-back singles and Christian Stringer followed with a walk to load the bases. J.T. Chargois doubled to left to score two and Stringer came home on Jeremy Rathjen's sacrifice fly.
Junior outfielder Michael Ratterree led off the fourth with a double down the left field line and he advanced to third on grounder to right side. Ratterree alertly dashed-home on a Houston wild pitch that cut the margin to 8-4 with five innings left to play.
"Mike's had a couple of pretty good games here in a row, which is very good to see," Graham said. "He's relaxing more. That could really help us."
Houston added three more insurance runs in the top of the seventh to go up 11-4. Ratterree wasn't quite finished helping the Owls at the plate either. He and Ryan Lewis connected for back-to-back homers in the bottom of the eighth to make the score 11-8. Five different Owls collected at least two hits in a 13-hit attack.
Coach Graham stayed positive, focusing on Rice's offensive effort. He tipped his cap to UH's 15-hit night, the most surrendered by the Owls this season (and passing an earlier mark of 14 hits reached by Stanford).
"We hit the ball well," coach Graham explained. "We had 13 hits, there was nothing wrong with that. Houston had a good day with the bat and they deserve credit."
Rice also found a silver lining in the relief effort of true freshman Zech Lemond. The right-hander worked 4.0 innings, scattering just three hits and a walk while striking out three. Redshirt sophomore Chase McDowell fired 1.1 scoreless innings in his first outing on the mound since late March. Freshman Evan Rutter also posted two strikeouts in a scoreless inning of relief.
The weekend series vs. UH continues through Sunday. Saturday's start time is set for 1:37 pm. First pitch Sunday is 1:05 pm.