Michal Aquino’s RBI single in the top of the 14th inning helped No. 15 Rice defeat No. 19 FIU 3-2 on Friday at FIU Baseball Stadium.
The Panthers had a chance at a walk off win in the bottom of the 13th inning, but the runner held up on a liner to right field and was thrown out at home. The Owls (13-6, 3-1 C-USA) didn’t hesitate to take advantage in the next inning, giving the Panthers (16-2, 3-1) their first conference loss.
“The normal reaction when a ball goes in the air, is you react back,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “That’s what you are supposed to do. It was just a line drive right to him so there is nothing else you can do. He made the right play. It’s one of those things that happen in baseball.”
The scored plated their first run in the first inning when an Edwin Rios infield single scored Tyler Hibbert. Mike Franco held the Owls silent, allowing for some home insurance when Roche Woodard knocked in J.C. Escarra in the fourth inning. The Owls answered by scoring on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning before tying the score at 2 in the eighth inning when the Panthers overthrew the third baseman on a steal attempt, allowing the runner to score.
“Honestly, coming into the day my arm was sore,” Franco said. “I knew I had to compete out there and trust my defense and that’s what I did. My defense got outs for me and backed me up really well.”
Two Texans tossed graceful games from the start. Franco, a Corpus Christi native, allowed one earned run, three hits, and had seven strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. Houston native Zech Lemond allowed two earned runs, eight hits and had five strikeouts in eight innings of work.
FIU and Rice will play at 4 p.m. Saturday in Game 2 of the three-game series.