Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HOUSTON – The Rice baseball team exploded for six runs in the bottom of the third inning to record an 8-5 Conference USA victory over visiting UAB in the opening game of the three-game league series Friday evening Reckling Park.
With the win Rice improved to 10-13-2 in C-USA action for a .440 win percentage that is (after the conclusion of Friday’s conference slate) in a three-way tie for seventh place in the league standings. The Owls, Western Kentucky and UAB are tied heading into Saturday’s schedule with a total of five C-USA games remaining in the regular season. For the full season Rice is 22-26-2. UAB is 19-17 overall and 11-14 in conference for an identical .440 C-USA win percentage.
The Blazers were first on the scoreboard, sending eight men to the plate in the top of the second for a 2-0 advantage. The Owls regrouped and soon put together one of their biggest offensive innings of the year.
In the bottom of the third Rice sent 12 to plate for six runs on four hits, four walks and a hit batsman. Senior Andrew Dunlap was hit with one out and the bases loaded to force-in the first run. Sophomore Braden Comeaux followed with a lining double to left, clearing the bases and giving the Owls a 4-2 lead. By the time Bradly Gneiting knocked-in the team’s sixth run with his second hit in the inning, Rice was suddenly up by four, 6-2.
UAB fought back for a run in the fifth. Carter Pharis doubled and twice advanced 90-feet on consecutive ground outs. Rice came back with a run in its half of the inning as Ford Proctor drew a bases-loaded walk to make the score 7-3.
The Owls tallied one more run in the eighth. Ryan Chandler walked, stole second base and reached third on a sacrifice. He dashed home on a wild pitch for an 8-3 lead and the insurance run was good to have. The Blazers proceeded to chip away for two more runs on a pair of hits for the 8-5 final.
Rice sophomore pitcher Matt Canterino started on the mound and earned his sixth win of the season with 6.0 innings. He allowed just two earned runs on five hits without any walks and finished with five strikeouts. Kendal Jefferies worked the final 3.0 frames, striking out five for his third save of the year.
Where the Owl pitchers combined for ten strikeouts, the Rice hitters tied a season-high by drawing ten walks. The Blue & Gray finished with seven base hits to win for the sixth time in the last eight games.
The second game of the C-USA weekend series is set for 2 pm Saturday. Sunday’s series finale with the Blazers is 1 pm at Reckling Park.