BOCA RATON, Fla. - The Rice baseball team collected 13 hits and had solid outings on the mound from right-handers Jordan Stephens and Matt Ditman to post a 6-0 Conference USA road win at No. 12 ranked FAU Friday evening in Boca Raton, Fla.
Rice improved to 31-16 on the season and 18-7 in C-USA action. The win, along with Middle Tennessee's 9-2 loss at UTSA a short time later Friday night, lifted Rice into a tie for first place in the conference standings with the Blue Raiders (18-7 C-USA). FAU meanwhile is just a game back at 17-8 in league play as the three-game series between the Owls & Owls continues through Sunday in Florida.
Stephens came up big in just his seventh start of the season. The veteran right-hander held the top hitting and run-scoring offense in the conference to just three singles over 6.2 shutout innings. He walked one and hit a batter, but worked his way out of trouble spots with eight strikeouts to tie his season-high.
Ditman followed suit, and dealt out four strikeouts of his own over final 2.1 frames. Rice held just a 3-0 lead when he entered the game in the bottom of the seventh, and went on to register his team-leading eighth save of the season. The Richmond, Texas, native tied Rice great David Aardsma for third place on the school's all-time list for career saves with 17.
The contest was scoreless for the first three innings. Rice broke-through in the top of the fourth. Ford Stainback drew a leadoff walk and Charlie Warren hustled for a bunt base-hit. John Clay Reeves sacrificed the runners up 90 feet with a textbook bunt. After FAU got the second out of the inning, senior Leon Byrd dropped a tricky base hit behind and to the left of the pitcher's mound. With the runners moving on contact, Stainback scored easily. Warren didn't stop at third though, and sprinted home on the play for a 2-0 lead.
The Blue & Gray put together a two-out rally for a third run in the sixth. Connor Teykl lined a one-out single into right field, and he dashed to third on Byrd's single to right. Teykl scored on an FAU wild pitch to make it 3-0.
Rice wasn't quite finished on the scoreboard, and added a total of three more insurance runs in the final two innings. In the eighth Reeves drew a leadoff walk and Teykl followed with a towering home run to right field. Teykl's second round-tripper of the season extended the margin to 5-0. In the ninth, John Williamson collected his second base hit and scored on Ryan Chandler's double that made it 6-0.
Teykl finished the night going 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored. Five Rice players had two hits, led by Warren's three hits to tie his season-high.
Round one of the big C-USA weekend series is compete. The teams are back in action for the second game on Saturday (May 9). Start time is set for 12 noon (Central Time). The contest is slated for a live television broadcast on the American Sports Network. ASN will also stream Saturday's game live on the Internet at AmericanSportsNet.com.