May 17, 2014
HOUSTON - Leon Byrd's third hit of the day was his biggest, driving in the winning run from second base with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning as the Rice baseball team defeated LA Tech 4-3 Saturday to complete the three-game sweep of the C-USA weekend series.
After Rice twice had to rally to tie the game in the fifth and then seventh innings, the score was deadlocked at 3-3 until the Owls bottom three hitters came to the plate in the eleventh inning. Connor Teykl punched a base hit up the middle to lead it off, and John Williamson was brought-in to pinch run. Williamson hustled to second on a textbook sacrifice bunt by Ford Stainback, bringing Byrd to the plate for the fifth time in the contest.
The sophomore from Cypress, Texas, already had a pair of singles on the day and he lined his base hit into shallow field. Williamson sprinted for home and slid-in safely under the Bulldog throw to the plate for the game-winning run and the 4-3 final score.
Byrd's three hits on the day tied his career-high. The Owls finished with nine in the game, including Stainback who had two and senior Michael Aquino with his fifth home run of the season.
Freshman Jon Duplantier started on the mound and struck out three in 4.2 innings. He was relieved by Trevor Teykl who worked 1.1, and Matt Ditman who went on to earn the win with 4.0 shutout innings. The Owls also had a shutout inning out of the bullpen from junior Zech Lemond. The right-hander from Houston Lemond made a very welcome return to action for the first time since April 4. Lemond pitched a scoreless seventh in front of a mass of professional scouts gathered along the Reckling Park concourse.
Rice closed out the regular season at 37-17 overall and with a first place record of 23-7 in the C-USA standings. LA Tech is now 15-35 overall and 5-25 in conference.
The Owls next compete in the annual C-USA Tournament to be held in Hattiesburg, Miss., beginning on Wednesday (May 21). Rice, the No. 1 seed, meets No. 8 seed FIU at 12:30 pm at Pete Taylor Park on the Southern Miss campus. The tournament concludes with a one-game championship final on Sunday (May 25).