May 12, 2012
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HOUSTON - The Rice middle infield duo of Ford Stainback
and Christian Stringer
combined for eight hits and four runs batting in the top two spots in the Owl lineup, but the Blue & Gray had to hang-on for an 8-6 victory over visiting UAB in the second game of two finished on Saturday at Reckling Park.
The Owls also won the opener of the weekend series by claiming a 12-2 decision in game-one that was completed earlier in the afternoon on Saturday. Weather conditions in the area postponed the series-opening game from its original start time on Friday night.
The Rice offense was in-gear for both games Saturday. The Owls followed a 14-hit attack in the first game with another 15 hits in the second.
"It's pretty good when your 1-2 gets four hits apiece (in game two)," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "It kind of sets the tone. The production of the offense was good, then we had to make it hard at the end."
The Stainback-Stringer duo helped give Rice a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning of game two. Stainback led off with a double to left-center, went to third on a Stringer base hit and scored on a sacrifice fly. The Owls added another run in the fourth and then two more in the fifth, sixth and eighth on the way to an 8-2 advantage heading into the top of the ninth.
UAB, however, would not go away so easy. The Blazers rallied for four runs in the top of the ninth three hits and two walks. The big blow was a two-out, two-run double by Patrick Palmiero that brought the tying run to the plate. Rice reliever Tyler Duffey ended the threat with a strikeout for an 8-6 final.
Completing Friday night's postponed game had had far-less drama, but a similar wealth of Owl hitting. Rice totaled 14 hits, including five doubles to tie a season high. Stainback finished with three hits while Stringer scored three times after getting a double, a walk and reaching on a fielder's choice. Junior J.T. Chargois paced the team with four hits while driving in three runs.
In the bottom of the second inning (played Friday), Stringer reached on a fielder's choice and hustled to third base Chargois' single to right-center. Jeremy Rathjen followed with a double down the left field line for one run and two more men in scoring position. Chargois came home on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Lewis for a 2-0 advantage.
The Blue & Gray then sent 11 men to the plate for five runs in the bottom of the third. Doubles by Stringer, Chargois and Michael Ratterree highlighted a six-hit inning that stretched the margin to 7-0.
UAB came back in the top of the fourth. Two hit-batsmen, two wild pitches and a pair of singles paved the way for two Blazer runs to make it 7-2.
Due to lightning and severe weather in the area play was suspended until Saturday. When the teams returned to action close to 17 hours later, Rice erupted for five runs on three hits and three walks for a 12-2 score that held as the final. For the two games the Owls were a combined 29-of-68 at the plate (.426) with eight doubles and two home runs for 20 runs scored.
"I was really seeing the ball well the past two games," said Stainback. "That's what you want as a hitter. Leading off is probably my most position to hit in, and where I'm most comfortable."
Rice improved to 36-13 overall and 15-5 in C-USA action to take over sole possession of first place in the league standings. The Blazers are now 27-25 on the season and 7-13 in conference.
Not only do the Owls wrap-up the current homestand vs. UAB on Sunday, it's Rice's final home game of the regular season. Sunday's series finale begins at 1 pm. The Rice seniors will be honored before the first pitch.