May 30, 2014
HOUSTON - Rice rallied for the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning, then added a few more for good measure, as the Owls claimed a 7-2 victory over visiting George Mason University in the opening game of the home NCAA Regional Friday night at Reckling Park in Houston.
With the win Rice advances to play the University of Texas in the Regional's winner's bracket game on Saturday at 7 pm. The Owls improved to 42-18 on the season. George Mason dropped to 34-21 overall.
Starting pitchers Kevin McCanna (Rice) and Jared Gaynor (Mason) were locked in a scoreless duel until the Owls broke through for a run in the bottom of the seventh. Skyler Ewing knocked a one-out double to left field. He sprinted home on Kirby Taylor's two-out double to right for a narrow 1-0 lead.
George Mason took advantage of a Rice fielding miscue to come back with two runs in the top of the eighth. Josh Leemhuis hit a leadoff single and a walk to Anthony Montefusco put two men on base. Both advanced 90 feet on Ray Toto's sacrifice bunt. Mick Foley sliced a hit through the right side for the Patroits' first hit into the outfield to tie the score, 1-1. The Owls got a strikeout and looked to be on their way to avoiding further damage with a groundball, but Mason stayed alive with an Owl fielding error and moved in front, 2-1.
Rice returned serve in the bottom of the frame, first with the game-tying RBI by Keenan Cook after a leadoff single by Ford Stainback and sacrifice bunt by Chase McDowell. Shane Hoelscher singled and then Michael Aquino doubled down the line to put the Blue & Gray in front, 3-2.
Rice was in front, but not quite finished batting. The Blue & Gray proceeded to add four more runs on a total of six hits to stretch the margin to 7-2. Rice reliever Zech Lemond threw a 1-2-3 ninth to improve to 4-1 overall. The Rice trio of Aquino, Kirby Taylor and Leon Byrd all finished the night with two hits each.