HOUSTON -- Sophomore leftfielder Tristan Gray went 2-for-4 with a career-high five RBI to help pace the Rice baseball team to a 9-1 victory over visiting Florida Atlantic in the opener of a three-game Conference USA series Friday evening at Reckling Park in Houston.
With the win Rice improved to 32-15 on the season and 19-6 in C-USA league play. Rice also moved into sole possession of first place in the conference standings after Southern Miss fell at home to Louisiana Tech Friday 7-5. Rice has a one game lead on the Golden Eagles with five C-USA games left to play in the regular season. Florida Atlantic is now 33-15 and two games back of Rice for third place in the conference at 17-8.
Gray helped Rice quickly light up the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning. After the Blue & Gray loaded the bases with no outs, Gray punched a base hit through the left side for a 2-0 lead.
Florida Atlantic battled back for a run in the top of the third, but Rice answered with two more in the bottom of the frame. Ford Proctor drew a two-out walk and this time Gray followed with deep fly over the wall in right field. His second round-tripper of the season made it a 4-1 game, but he wasn't finished. Gray added his career-high fifth RBI as part of a two-run seventh. Rice was able to stretch the margin to 9-1 with three more runs in the eighth.
Junior Jon Duplantier started on the mound and worked a total of 6.2 innings. The right-hander scattered four hits and four walks, but allowed just one run with some inning-ending strikeouts and a big double-play in the fifth. Duplantier finished the night with 11 strikeouts, the sixth time in his 12 starts this season he has reached double-digit Ks (and he had nine strikeouts on two other occasions). Austin Solecitto, Glenn Otto and Evan Kravetz all saw action out of the Rice bullpen.
The weekend series continues through Sunday (May 15). Saturday's start time is set for 2 pm. The Rice seniors will be honored before the start in a special pregame ceremony. Sunday's series finale is set for 12 noon.