HOUSTON — Rice posted double-digit hits in both games of a doubleheader to sweep the twin bill from the visiting Texas Longhorns by scores of 10-9 and 5-2 Saturday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Where Rice also had ten hits in Friday’s opener of the four-game weekend series, the Owls didn’t convert Friday’s hits into runs and dropped the contest 3-1. The Blue & Gray quickly got into gear in Saturday’s first game, and continued to apply the offensive pressure for the most of the day.
In game one the Owls batted around in the bottom of the first to erupt for six runs on seven hits. As a team Rice hit for the cycle in the inning with a two-run homer by John Clay Reeves, a triple by Connor Teykl, Ryan Chandler’s leadoff double and four more base hits for good measure.
Texas continued to battle, and scored five runs of their own in the first three innings to pull back to within one at 6-5. When the Owls pushed across a total of three more runs in the fourth and fifth, Texas answered with two in the top of the sixth to stay close at 9-7.
Rice junior left-hander Blake Fox worked the first 6.0 innings in his first start of the season. He was charged with Texas’ first seven runs but three were unearned after an Owl fielding error. Fox was relieved by right-hander Matt Ditman to start the seventh.
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The Owls supported Ditman with an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, but Texas scored in the eighth and ninth to make it 10-9 with one out and the potential tying run on second base. The bullpen veteran struck out the final two Longhorns to end the game, giving him a total of seven Ks over the final 3.0 innings to earn his first save of the season.
“We hit well today, and I thought we also hit well last night [Friday] too, but today we had a lot more to show for it,” Rice head coach Wayne Graham said. “We had a lot of good at bats in the first game and kept [the offensive momentum] going into the second. That’s hard to do because Texas is a very good team.”
In the day’s second game Graham handed the ball to true freshman Ricardo Salinas. While Salinas’ offensive teammates began to build him a 5-0 lead, the rookie right-hander fired 6.0 scoreless frames before Texas finally broke through for pair of runs in the top of the seventh. Salinas scattered five hits and two walks while striking out four in his Division I debut.
Left-hander John Williamson pitched the final 1.2 innings without allowing any runs or hits to earn his first career save in a 5-2 final. The top half of the Owls’ lineup combined for eight of the team’s ten hits with four runs scored and four RBI.
“I was very pleased with Ricardo pitching, and John too,” coach Graham said. “It was a long day of baseball and this was two very big wins for us today in every respect. We have a lot of players playing well, but I still think we can get better individually and play even better as a team.”
Fans have certainly responded to the season-opening series. The combined attendance total of 12,803 is well above the previous high of 12,237 for the first three games of a home-opening series in Reckling Park history (set in 2013 vs. Stanford).
Three games have been played, but the season-opening super-series is not over yet. Rice and Texas play the finale of the four-game set on Sunday.