HOUSTON (release) -- No. 4 Rice turned the tables on Tennessee Sunday, scoring four runs in the first two innings en route to an 11-1 victory in the Sunday night finale of the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park. The Volunteers had outscored their opponents, 21-2 in the first two innings entering the contest.
“That was a good baseball team,” UT Head Coach Dave Serrano said. “What I said to the team is that we don’t have the opportunity to pick and choose when we want to come out and be at our best. We made the decision Saturday to be the best team we can be and it ended up paying off dividends for us. Tonight we weren’t physically there and we weren’t mentally there. I am the head coach and I’m the one that has to get these guys ready to play.
“What I’m happy about is that the opportunity that we were given here to learn what we need to do as a team. I know as a coaching staff we’re learning and I’m hoping that it transfers to the players understanding what we need to do to get to the level of some of the teams we played this weekend. Even though we went 1-2, I look at the bright side that I learned some things and I hope our team did too.”
Rice starter Jordan Stephens and two relievers held the Vols had a season-low tying X hits, all singles. Stephens picked up his first collegiate victory with seven shutout innings, striking out eight UT batters.
Junior Steve Weaver recorded two of the Vols’ five hits and freshman Will Maddox drove in the team’s only run with a hot-shot RBI single to short in the bottom of the eighth. Zach Osborne was named to the Houston College Classic All-Tournament Team.
The Owls pounded out 17 hits, the most by a Tennessee opponent this season. The 11 runs were also a season-high against the Vols.
UT starting pitcher Nick Blount suffered his first loss of the season, allowing seven runs, six earned, on 10 hits in 5.2 innings pitched.
Rice wasted little time jumping on the Vols. After a leadoff double by Christian Stringer, a groundout moved him to third and a sacrifice fly to center by Ryan Lewis brought him home. The Owls then got another base hit and a run-scoring double to left-center by Chase McDowell to grab a quick 2-0 lead.
Rice kept applying the pressure in the second, scoring on a balk and a wild pitch to push its lead to four. Another tally in the third, this one on a UT fielding error, gave the Owls a comfortable 5-0 advantage.
After two scoreless frames by Blount, part of a stretch where he retired eight straight, Rice added two more runs in the sixth on a throwing error and a two-out single by Stringer. The Owls picked up three more in the top of the eighth on a two-run home run into the Crawford Boxes in left field by Michael Fuda and an RBI groundout by Shane Hoelscher.
UT scored its only run of the game in the bottom of the frame on Maddox’s RBI single to short which brought home Jared Allen who had singled to lead off the inning.
Rice used three singles and Tennessee’s third error of the night to plate one more in the ninth to finalize the scoring.
The Vols will return to Rocky Top for a 6 p.m. contest against Ball State on Wednesday before hosting a three-game series against Louisiana-Monroe next weekend.
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