Baseball sweeps Tulane, pushing streak to four
The Rice University men’s baseball team traveled to New Orleans, La. this past weekend to face Tulane University in a three-game Conference USA series. The Owls entered the series coming off a road win against in-state rival No. 7 University of Texas, Austin and carried their momentum into the weekend.
The Rice University men’s baseball team traveled to New Orleans, La. this past weekend to face Tulane University in a three-game Conference USA series. The Owls entered the series coming off a road win against in-state rival No. 7 University of Texas, Austin and carried their momentum into the weekend. Rice managed to take all three games to complete their third C-USA sweep in the season. The Owls have won four straight games after recording a 3-6 record over the previous nine games. Rice improved to 26-12 on the season (13-5 in conference play) while Tulane fell to 14-20 (6-11 in conference play).
On Friday night, sophomore Kevin McCanna was on the mound for the Owls in the first Friday-night start of his career. McCanna went 7.0 innings on the mound, giving up two runs on five hits while tying a career-high seven strikeouts. The Owls supported him early on by earning two runs in the first inning on RBIs by junior Skyler Ewing and sophomore Connor Teykl. Tulane scored a run in the second inning to make it 2-1, but Rice would take a 3-1 lead afterward on a solo home run by senior Chase McDowell. Backed by defense and pitching, Rice went on to win by a final score of 4-3. Junior reliever Matt Ditman came into the ballgame in the eighth inning to strike out both batters and pitched a clean ninth inning to secure the one-run win for the Owls.
In the second game of the weekend series, sophomore Blake Fox took the hill in his ninth start on the season. The lefty pitched a career-long 8.1 innings, allowing one run on six hits while tying a career-high with eight strikeouts. Tulane did not score a run off of Fox until the seventh inning. Meanwhile, the Owls also managed to earn one run, leading the way for a highly competitive pitching duel. Rice added one more run in the eighth inning on a leadoff base hit by junior John Clay Reeves that turned into a run scored for pinch runner John Williamson. The opposing pitcher, senior Tyler Mapes, would pitch all 9.0 innings for the Green Wave but still managed to take the loss as Rice held on by a final score of 2-1. Ditman earned saves in back-to-back games. Rice would also win by a one-run margin to guarantee the series victory.
In the final game of the series, the Owls looked to sweep the Green Wave but got off to a rough start. McDowell — the starting pitcher — would only pitch for part of the first inning, until reliever Trevor Teykl stepped in. The Owls allowed five runs in the first inning. Down 5-0, the Owls offense scored a nine-run third inning to take a 9-5 advantage over the Green Wave. Five straight bases-loaded singles tied the game at five before senior Michael Aquino brought another single to score two more runs. Rice finished with 18 hits on the day and 11 runs to take down Tulane 11-7 and complete the three-game sweep. Freshman center fielder Charlie Warren had a career day at the plate, going a perfect 5-5 against the Green Wave pitching staff.
Sophomore Kevin McCanna said he approached his Friday night start by studying the scouting report. According to McCanna, his defense should be credited for sticking with him through the course of the ballgame.
“I went out there and did what I normally do, which is study the scouting report and try to throw strikes,” McCanna said. “I was definitely happy that we were able to win it and proud of the defense, who made good plays behind me.”
Going into the weekend series, McCanna said the team chemistry was high. According to him, the four-game winning streak is a product of clutch hitting.
“I think we’ve had a good team chemistry so far, and [right now] we’re hitting when we need to and scoring when we have to,” McCanna said.
Warren said he wants to keep the momentum alive by sticking to hard work in practice and executing when they have to.
“I feel like if we keep doing what we’ve been doing in practice and playing hard in games, the team will come out and keep winning,” Warren said. “You have to compete to the best of your abilities and can only let up [when] you outcompete the other competitors.”
The Owls will face the University of Alabama, Birmingham this upcoming weekend at home in a battle between the top two teams in the conference. A three-game series is scheduled beginning this Friday, April 18. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.
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On Thursday, sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes proved to the rest of the country what her Conference USA opponents and Rice teammates have known for years – she’s one of the fastest runners in the country. Competing at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore. for the second consecutive year, Forbes, took second place in the 10,000-meter, the best finish by an Owl at the NCAAs in over a decade. According to Forbes, who missed the indoor season and the first month of the outdoor season due to extreme fatigue later diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, the result was a testament to the work she’s put in to overcome an incredibly challenging year.
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The Conference USA outdoor track and field championships saw Rice’s men’s team place third with 121 points — their best conference championship performance since 2005 — and the women’s team place fifth with 88 points. According to men’s head coach Jon Warren, he was proud to see the work his team put in all season be on full display at the meet.