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Rice can clinch 5th straight regular season C-USA title tonight

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Rice baseball’s steak of regular season Conference USA titles is on solid footing after an 11-2 home win against Louisiana Tech Thursday.

A win tonight over the last place Bulldogs will clinch Rice at least a share of its 5th consecutive C-USA crown. It also would extend an astounding steak of 19-straight seasons where Rice has won either a regular season or conference tournament title. The streak started in the Southwest Conference in 1996 and then continued in the WAC from 1997 to 2005 and in C-USA since 2006.

This season, Rice is 21-7 in Conference USA with two games left. UAB (19-8 in C-USA) is the only team that can catch the Owls. Thursday’s UAB at Florida Atlantic game was postponed by rain. The teams will play a doubleheader today. As of publication time, the first game was tied at 1 in the second inning.

Should Rice and UAB tie for the title, Rice will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s Conference USA Tournament in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Louisiana Tech is just 15-33 this season and has won only five of 28 C-USA games. Rice banged out 11 runs and 18 hits on the Bulldog pitchers Thursday. Michael Aquino got the scoring started with a fourth inning home run. John Clay Reeves closed it with a seventh inning grand slam.

Every Owl starter had at least one hit. Other batting stars included Kennan Cook (triple and 3 RBIs), Leon Byrd (3 hits and 2 runs) and Skyler Ewing (3 hits and a run scored).

Kevin McCanna improved to 6-3 on the hill with another strong outing. He pitched eight innings, giving up one earned run on seven hits. He walked two and struck out eight.

Blake Fox is expected get the ball in tonight’s game, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at Reckling Park. He is 10-0 this season with a 1.52 ERA. On Thursday, Fox was named one of the semifinalists for the 2014 Dick Howser Trophy presented by Easton Foundations, given to the top player in collegiate baseball.

The series and regular season wraps up at 1 p.m. Saturday. The C-USA Tournament begins on Wednesday.