Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HOUSTON -- The Rice baseball team rallied for one run in the bottom of the ninth inning and still had two more men on base before visiting UAB held on to claim a 5-3 Conference USA win over the Owls Saturday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Rice is now 22-27-2 on the season and 10-14-2 in C-USA games. With the setback the Owls are now tied for eighth place in the league standings with Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers, however, hold the tiebreaker over Rice by its head-to-head series win against the Owls last month. With Saturday's win UAB (now 20-27 overall, 12-14 C-USA) broke the previous three-way tie among the same schools to move into sole possession of seven place in the conference standings.
After Rice won the opening game of three-game series on Friday, UAB came out swinging on Saturday. The Blazers quickly scored runs in the first and third innings, and two more in the fourth to build a 4-0 lead on nine base hits.
Rice clawed back for a run in the bottom of the fourth. Braden Comeaux lined a one-out double to left and scored on Dominic DiCaprio's single up the middle. DiCaprio then made things interesting with massive solo homer to lead off the bottom of the seventh that made the score 4-2. UAB answered with a two-out rally for a run in the top of the eighth for a 5-2 lead.
The Blue & Gray continued to fight. Andrew Dunlap led off the ninth with hit and advanced around to third base on back-to-back balks, and scored on a RBI single by Comeaux. The Blazers this time were careful pitching to DiCaprio, and ended up walking him to put the tying run on base. UAB made a good play to thwart a Rice sacrifice attempt, and used the newfound defensive momentum to get the final two outs for a 5-3 final.
It was not the result Rice wanted as the C-USA regular season winds toward its end, but keep an eye out for the full return of DiCaprio. The junior DH was 2-for-3 with a home run, two RBI and walk for easily his best game since being sidelined most of the year. Right-handed pitcher Garrett Gayle had a sound and solid effort working a career-long 4.0 innings of relief. He scattered four hits and one walk while striking out three.
Sunday's series finale vs. UAB is scheduled for 1 pm at Reckling Park. Five Owl seniors will be honored before the first pitch, and the contest marks the final home game for Rice head coach Wayne Graham.