The UAB baseball team rallied for a pair of runs in the top of the 12th inning and then held-off a Rice rally in the bottom of the frame to claim a 6-5 win over the Owls in the final game of the Conference USA weekend series Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park.
Before the teams alternated runs back-and-forth in both the 11th and 12th, UAB rallied to push across the tying run in the game’s tying run top of the ninth. Tanner Bryant hit a leadoff double, went to third on a sacrifice and scored on an RBI ground-out by Chase Davis to tie the game, 3-3.
The teams were deadlocked through 10 and in the 11th Davis reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on Ryan Prinzing’s base hit to give the Blazers a 4-3 lead.
Rice continued to fight. Pinch hitter Keenan Cook started the bottom of the 11th with a single up the middle. Senior Daniel Gonzales-Luna pinch-ran at first base and moved to scoring position on Shane Hoelscher’s sacrifice bunt. He scored on Ford Stainback’s double off the left field wall that re-tied the game, 4-4.
“We had multiple opportunities with the bat in our hands,” said Rice head Wayne Graham. “One swing and we win the game.”
UAB responded two runs in the top of the 12th. Jeff Schalk drew a leadoff walk and was able to advance around to third on a pair of Rice wild pitches. He scored on a one-out single by Harry Clark to move back in front 5-4. Blazer pinch-runner Todd Wilkinson then stole two bases to reach third, where he scored on a ground-out to make it 6-4.
The Owls still would not give-in so easily. Michael Ratterree slashed a double down the third base line to led off the bottom of the 12th. He took third on a ground out and scored on pinch-hitter Michael Aquino’s hard-hit sacrifice fly to center field. UAB secured the final out to take the game by a score of 6-5.
“Mike (Aquino) almost hit it over his head,” Graham added. “Our pinch-hitters swung the bat well. Cook had that pinch hit in the 11th. That kept us in the game.”
The Owls quickly scored a run in bottom of the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Jeremy Rathjen and stretched the margin to 3-1 by the fourth after RBI singles by Craig Manuel and Hoelscher. The Blazers cut the lead to 3-2 with a run in the sixth before scoring the tying run in the top of the ninth.
Rice fell to 36-14 overall and 15-6 in C-USA action. The Owls are in a tie for first place in the C-USA standings with UCF. The Blazers improved to 28-25 on the year and 8-13 in conference.
Rice has closed out the home portion of its regular season schedule and plays each of the next four games on the road. The Owls are at Sam Houston State on Tuesday (May 15) followed by a three-game C-USA series at conference co-leader UCF May 17-19. Rice then competes in the C-USA Tournmanent May 23-27 in Pearl, Miss.