April 22, 2011
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The UAB baseball team built an early lead Friday night against No. 19 Rice, but the Owls used a five-run fifth inning and strong relief pitching to open this weekend's series with a 9-5 win at Young Memorial Field.
Patrick Palmeiro and John Frost drove in four of UAB's five runs, all of which came in the game's first five innings. But Taylor Duffey came out of the Rice bullpen after the Owls took the lead to work 3.1 scoreless frames and earn his seventh win of the season.
The Blazers (21-17, 6-7 C-USA) and the Owls (28-14, 9-4 C-USA) will complete their three-game series Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. CT.
Rice's Austin Kubitza came into Friday's game with the lowest ERA among Conference USA starters, but UAB got to him for five runs in just 4.1 innings. An RBI groundout from Frost and a run-scoring single from Palmeiro in the third inning staked the Blazers to a 4-1 lead.
"I thought we had competitive at-bats," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "We did a great job getting their pitch count up, and we got five runs off a guy that came in with a 1.33 ERA. But they ran two great arms out of the bullpen at us. We had guys on base and even guys in scoring position, but it was hard to push them across."
Rice picked up one run in the fourth and then took control with five in the fifth. The Owls sent 11 batters to the plate and recorded five of their 11 hits in the inning in addition to a pair of walks and a hit batter. Michael Ratterree and Ryan Lewis each drove in two runs with singles as Rice opened up a 7-4 advantage.
UAB starter Dillon Napoleon suffered just his second loss of the season and his first in conference play after working six innings and allowing the first seven Rice runs. It was the first time all season Napoleon allowed more than three earned runs in a game.
"This wasn't the Dillon we've seen this year, but he's human," Shoop said. "He wasn't as sharp tonight and Rice took advantage. You have to give Rice credit. They did a good job."
The Blazers scored their final run in the bottom of the fifth and then went scoreless the rest of the way against Duffey and Rice closer Tony Cingrani. The Owls tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth.
Lewis went 2-for-4 and led all players with four RBI for Rice, while Ratterree finished with a game-high three hits. Palmeiro, Nick Crawford, Harry Clark and Keith DePew managed two hits each for UAB. Crawford also walked twice to reach base in four of his five plate appearances.