In the only game all week that will pit two ranked teams against each other, No. 18 Rice made the short trip to No. 20 Sam Houston State and came up with a much-needed 8-5 win.
The Owls limped into the game off a 1-3 week that included a home loss to SHSU followed by a 1-2 showing at the Houston College Classic, with losses to Texas and Texas Tech sandwiching a 1-0 win against Texas Christian. Far more damaging, the Owls lost Friday starter Jordan Stephens for the season due to Tommy John surgery. Stephens, a junior righthander who was 2-0, 2.57 before going down, came out after two innings in last Friday's loss to Texas.
“He started talking about soreness in his forearm and not in the elbow joint,” Rice coach Wayne Graham told the Houston Chronicle. “We thought it was just early-season getting into top shape . . . We had hopes that it would just work its way out of there.”
Credit the Owls for gathering themselves to notch a solid nonconference win Wednesday night against a Bearkats team that came in riding high, having gone 2-1 at the Houston College Classic and entering the Top 25 for just the second time ever. Rice got a solid outing from senior righthander Chase McDowell (6.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) and broke open a 2-2 game with four runs in the top of the fifth. Michael Aquino (2-for-5, R, 2 RBI) led the Owls offense. On the other side, sloppiness undid the Bearkats, who made five errors. Two of those errors came in the decisive fifth inning, and four of Rice's eight runs were unearned.
The Owls will move closer Zech Lemond, who does have some starting experience, into the Friday starter role this weekend as they open C-USA play against conference newcomer Old Dominion.
Top 25 Upsets
• David Del Grande's walk-off single in the 10th inning finished off Sacramento State's 2-1 upset of No. 24 Fresno State. Freshman Sam Long (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R) gave the Hornets a strong start, and Sutter McLoughlin picked up the win with two perfect innings of relief.
• Memphis improved to 11-1 and beat a ranked SEC team on the road for the second time this year, taking down No. 25 Mississippi 4-1 in Oxford. The Tigers previously won at Mississippi State on Feb. 19. They led wire to wire on Wednesday, jumping out to a lead in the first inning on Drew Griffin's two-RBI single. Tigers starter Caleb Wallingford (6 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K) was pitching out of trouble all night but was able to strand nine runners on base.
• Division I's last two unbeatens, No. 3 South Carolina and Tennessee, stayed perfect. The Gamecocks ran their record to 12-0 with a 4-2 win against Stetson, sweeping the two-game midweek series, while the Vols also reached 12-0 with a second straight blowout win against LaSalle, 10-2.
• No. 2 Florida State scored four runs in the top of the first, and five Seminole pitchers made them stand up as FSU beat South Florida 4-1. D.J. Stewart (2-for-3, R, 2 BB) led the 'Noles offense, while Jameis Winston picked up his second save.
• Austin Cousino went a combined 4-for-8 with four runs scored as No. 23 Kentucky swept a doubleheader from Cincinnati, 7-0 and 11-4. Wildcats sophomore Dylan Dwyer threw a three-hit shutout in just his third career start in the first game.
• No. 17 Indiana leveled its record at 5-5 with a 2-1 win against Xavier in the Hoosiers' home opener. Kyle Hart (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R) picked up the win as IU broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the bottom of the seventh.