By: John Sullivan
SUGAR LAND, Texas - Two Owl fielding errors in the bottom of the ninth inning paved the way for a Houston comeback in a 2-1 win over the Rice baseball team Tuesday evening at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas.
Rice held a narrow 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth of the final game of annual series vs. crosstown rival Cougars. The Owls' pitching Tuesday was again every bit as sound and solid as it had been in the team's seven-game win streak heading into the contest. The Rice staff handcuffed No. 19 ranked Houston to no runs for eight innings on just three hits.
Houston did not add to its hit total in the bottom of the ninth, but didn't need any hits to slip away with a 2-1 decision and hold possession of the Silver Glove Trophy. The Owls walked the leadoff batter but retired the next two hitters, including a sensational diving catch by Charlie Warren on a low fly ball to shallow right field. Rice then threw an infield grounder in the dirt to first base, which kept Houston alive. The next play was the opposite. Rice threw the ground ball hit by the next UH batter high to first, which pulled fielder Connor Teykl off the bag.
Instead of being out of the inning and the teams shaking hands, the Blue & Gray was suddenly now in a bases-loaded situation. Rice hit the next batter which tied the game 1-1, then walked-in the winning run for the 2-1 final. Houston had scored twice in the ninth without a base hit, and managed to hit just one ball out of the infield (the fly Warren caught in right).
Rice is now 33-17 on the season. Houston is 36-17 overall.
Both teams were in a scoreless duel for the first four innings. Rice pushed across the game's first run when Teykl, a native of Sugar Land, collected his second hit of the night to lead off the top of the fifth. Kirby Taylor followed with a base hit and a one-out walk to Leon Byrd loaded the stations. Hunter Kopycinski then laced a pitch to right to score Teykl for the 1-0 lead.
Owl true freshman Glenn Otto started on the mound and posted a career-high nine strikeouts in 3.2 innings. He worked out of trouble with two men on base in the bottom of the second, and then had some help from reliever John Williamson to get out of a two-on, two-out situation in the fourth. Ricardo Salinas also struck out four in 3.1 innings of work. The staff finished the night with a total of 14 strikeouts
Rice now has just three games remaining in the regular season, all at home at Reckling Park. The Owls host C-USA foe Florida International on May 14-16. Start times Thursday and Friday are set for 6:30 pm. Saturday's 12 noon game is scheduled for a live television broadcast on Fox Sports Net.