A four-run first set the tone for a tremendous night for Rice baseball, which improved to 13-12 on the season with the victory over Lamar.
The first four to the plate for Rice baseball came around to score in the very first inning, a harbinger of good things to come for the Owls at the beginning of their five-game road trip. Little did they know it at the time, but those four runs would prove to be enough by themselves with Lamar’s only significant threat coming with a two-run fourth inning off reliever Garret Zaskoda.
With the game relatively close at that time, Rice broke out the boom sticks. Ben Royo, who hadn’t homered in a game this season until he went yard in the Saturday game against UAB, went yard for the fifth time in the Owls’ last seven games with a two-run shot in the sixth. Drew Holderbach added an insurance dinger in the seventh. Paul Smith and Guy Garibay each drove in a run apiece in the eighth.
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As the bats added to the total, the Owls’ arms kept the Cardinals off the board. Cristian Cienfuegos was terrific, striking out three of the five batters he faced. Jack Ben-Shoshan and Matthew Linskey each recorded multiple strikeouts and no runs in their relief appearances. It wasn’t a perfect performance from the pen, but it was a solid night, which is more than enough when the bats are hot.
What it means | Setting the tone
The bats deserve credit, but coming from behind to win games is far from an ideal strategy. To this point in the season, Rice has been able to get base runners early in games, but delivering a crooked number straight away hasn’t been in the cards… until Tuesday night.
Entering the game against Lamar, Rice had scored eight first inning runs in their first 24 games, an average of a third of a run per opening frame. That’s not very much. So when the Owls loaded the bases with no outs in the first, there was a sense of inevitability in the Beaumont air. Undoubtedly, the Owls were due.
A four-run first served as a resounding answer and set the tone for a midweek tilt that pushed Rice baseball back above .500. Getting that many runs in your first plate appearance aren’t likely to be an every night experience, but the impact of the fast start had on the game was unmistakable. Having Justin Long deliver 2.2 scoreless innings on the mound helped, too. Rice needs more starts like this.
ON DECK | at FAU (Fri-Sun)
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