Thanks to a four-run sixth inning, Texas won its series against Rice on Tuesday 5-1 in the final game of a season-long three-game series.
Despite not getting any hits in the entire sixth inning, the Horns were able to put up four runs. Shortstop Brandon Loy started the inning out with a soft grounder to short that would have been an out but was thrown into the stands, putting Loy on second with no outs.
“The thing we’ve been worried about lately is getting up there and swinging at good pitches and putting the ball in play,” Loy said. “I went up there and ... obviously it wasn’t a hard-hit ball. I put an OK swing on it, and it rolled over to shortstop, and fortunately he threw it away and got the inning started. That led to a bunch of walks and a bunch of runs.”
Cameron Rupp was next at bat, and he walked on a wild pitch on ball four that allowed Loy to advance to third. Kevin Keyes was next up to bat and was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Kevin Lusson, the third batter in a row to get on base thanks to a walk, which scored Loy. Rupp would later score on another wild pitch and Keyes would score on a passed ball. The final run of the inning came courtesy of a Jonathan Walsh sacrifice fly that brought home Lusson, giving the Horns four runs on zero hits.
“To come out here and take our walks and take what the other guy was gonna give us, it was encouraging,” Loy said.
“What’s to say,” Rice head coach Wayne Graham said. “We walked them. Started with an error and we walked them. Anatomy of disaster.”
Thanks to that disaster of a sixth inning for Rice, Texas was able to put more runs on the board than it had hits.
“When you give up five runs on three hits, that’s not very good,” Graham said.
“We’re letting them make their mistakes,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. “When they wanted to get wild, we let them get wild.”
Sophomore Sam Stafford was on the mound for Texas for his first career start, which couldn’t have gone any better. Staffor used his fastball to set up for his record-breaking two strikeouts and force five groundouts.
“I was pretty comfortable coming in today with the fastball, and the curveball I was able to throw for strikes,” Stafford said. “That’s always good when you’re able to do that with your curveball.”
Stafford faced the minimum of nine batters in three innings of perfect pitching before Garrido pulled him for Austin Dicharry in an effort to protect Stafford.
“He’s done that in scrimmages,” Garrido said about Stafford’s performance. “He’s been brilliant for three innings. We wanted to get him out. And in a game situation, with the adrenaline rush, you’re going to go fewer than you are in a practice environment. It was two or three [innings].”
Home run leader Jordan Etier broke the scoring seal for the game when he launched the ball over the left-center fence to give Texas a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on an 0-1 count. Etier’s fifth dinger of the season wasn’t what he was hoping for, though.
“I was just trying to see a ball I could hit and get a line drive,” Etier said. “I just missed it a little bit, and it got up in the wind.”
Ruffin came in the sixth and only gave up one hit and one walk while recording three strikeouts for his fourth win of the season.