The Sunday outcome was a loss, but at least the Rice offense left the FIU Baseball Stadium with seven runs.
In fact, Rice scored 20 runs during a 2-1 weekend series victory over future conference foe FIU (8-8). The Owls had scored just seven runs it its previous five games. Rice was 1-4 in that stretch.
The Owls (9-7) batting average improved to .254, slugging percentage rose to .326 and runs scored went up to 3.6 runs a game. None of those numbers scream deep postseason run, but it’s an early step in the right direction.
Michael Aquino opened the series scoring with his fifth home run Friday. Ford Stainback and Christian Stinger added RBIs in the fifth to put Rice ahead 3-0. FIU drew to within 4-2 after seven but the Owls put it away in the eighth for the 7-2 win. Stainback collected two more runs batted in with a well-hit single. The 3 RBIs in a game was his career high.
Austin Kubitza earned his second win, pitching into the seventh. John Simms took it from there, getting out eight of the Golden Panthers last 11 batters. Kubitza and Simms combined for 15 strikeouts, while only walking two batters.
The offense took a backseat for the majority of Saturday’s contest thanks to crisp pitching from Rice’s Jordan Stephens and FIU’s Ty Sullivan.
Stephens departed holding a 3-1 lead after giving up a leadoff single to start the bottom of the ninth. Zach Lemond was called upon to relieve, but gave up a tying 2-RBI single to Aramis Garcia.
Rice responded in the tenth. With one out, Aquino and Michael Ratterree singled. Blake Fox struck out, but Keenan Cook came through with a single to score Aquino. The Owls weren’t done. Connor Teykl singled to left to bring in Ratterree and he later scored on a bases load walk.
Rice needed each of those runs as the Golden Panthers scored two in the bottom of the 10th. With Woodard on second and two outs, Lemond got T.J. Shantz to ground out to third preserve the 6-5 win.
On Sunday, the Owls fell behind 11-2 as Chase McDowell was roughed up. Rice scored five runs in the seventh and eight innings, but got no closer in the 11-7 loss.
Stainback completed his impressive weekend with a 5-for-5 day at the plate Sunday. Stringer and Ratterree each finished Sunday’s game with three hits and two RBI.
The Owls open up a homestand Tuesday against Louisiana Tech. First pitch is 6:30 p.m. at Reckling Park. La Tech will again be the opponent Wednesday before Harvard comes to town for a weekend series.