Baseball

Local Boy, Cinderella Story

May 18, 2018

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Recap by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (jsully@rice.edu)

MIAMI, Fla. -- The Rice baseball team split its Conference USA double-header at FIU by the scores of 6-2 in game one and 6-8 in the nightcap, completing a long day of baseball Friday evening in Miami where the Owls officially clinched a spot in next week's C-USA Championship Tournament.

It might even be more accurate to say Rice slammed its way Biloxi where the team can defend its 2017 league title. Down 2-1 to start the ninth inning of game one, the Owls rallied for five unanswered runs - four on the strength of a grand slam home run by true freshman and nearby Palmetto Bay, Fla., native Luis Aviles that vaulted the Blue & Gray to the 6-2 final.

Rice first rallied for a single run to tie the game. Another south Florida native playing in his home state, Dominic DiCaprio, started it off by lining a one-out single up the middle. Trei Cruz followed with a walk and Andrew Dunlap was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Chace Sarchet drew a walk to force in the tying run, 2-2.

It took until the ninth for Owls to pull even on the scoreboard, but the team wasn't quite finished. Rice head coach Wayne Graham made a move to for a pinch-hitter, calling on Aviles who had only logged 25 official at bats all year. Aviles did not waste any time, and promptly hit the first pitch he saw well past the wall in left field. His first career round-tripper, in front of his family and some hometown friends, put Rice in front 6-2.

The Blue & Gray held on for the win. Paired with some scoreboard watching of other C-USA outcomes from around the league the Owls were Biloxi-bound.

With the momentum of winning the series-opener, the Owls went right to work for a pair of runs in the top of the first inning game two. Rice worked out of a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the first, but could not hold-off the Panthers in the second. FIU scored four runs on five singles and two hit batsmen.

The Owls came right back with a run in the third to make it 4-3, but the Panthers answered with a score in the bottom of the inning and stretched the margin to 8-3 with a three-run sixth.

Rice continued fight and rallied for three runs in the top of the eighth thanks to a big RBI double by Andrew Dunlap. FIU ended the threat and retired the Owls in the ninth for the 8-6 final.

After nearly seven full hours of baseball Friday Rice is now 24-29-2 on the season and 12-15-2 in C-USA play. FIU is 26-26 overall and 15-13 in conference.

The finale of the three-game C-USA series, and the 2018 regular season, is set for Saturday (May 19) at 11 am Central Time.

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