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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 — Houston, TX

Baseball sees first losses of young season

By Ryan Glassman     3/6/12 6:00pm

Owls drop opener, rebound to take two of three at Houston College Classic

Off to their best start in almost 20 years, the Owls entered the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park last weekend after riding their depth of power arms to a 9-0 start.

But in the weekend opener against their rival The University of Texas (21st in the Baseball America poll at the time), it was the pitching that let Rice down for the first time in the young season. Starter sophomore Austin Kubitza took the hill Friday but could not find the strike zone and was pulled after walking five through just one and two-thirds innings with the game tied 2-2. The Longhorns' bats then erupted for six runs on seven hits in the fifth, as Texas went up 9-3 en route to an 11-8 victory, handing the Owls their first loss of the season.

Senior Matthew Reckling took the hill Saturday evening against Texas Tech University but labored through the first inning in which he allowed two runs and faced eight batters. The Owls would take the lead right back, however, when junior Michael Ratterree hit a three-run home run to left in the inning's bottom half. Pitching with the lead, Reckling would settle in brilliantly to hold the Red Raiders to just two hits over the next five and two-thirds innings, as senior Michael Fuda and sophomore Derek Hamilton paced the offense with 3 hits apiece in Rice's 6-2 win on Saturday night.

The Sunday finale against the University of Tennessee was an all-out drubbing by the Owls, as freshman Jordan Stephens parlayed an outstanding start with 17 hits from the offense as Rice cruised to an 11-1 win. Stephens stymied the Volunteers' bats over seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out eight in a performance that earned him the Most Outstanding Player of the Houston College Classic.

Rice drops heartbreaker in the midweek at No. 21 Texas State

On Tuesday evening, the Owls took a road trip to San Marcos to face the Texas State University Bobcats, a team ranked the highest in the history of their program and boasting a streak of 50 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings heading into the game.

Junior Andrew Benak took the mound for his third start of the season, in what was a classic pitcher's duel between Benak and Bobcats senior Mitchell Pitts. Texas State would score first in the seventh on a fielder's choice with the bases loaded, as Benak left the game charged with the one run while striking out 10 over six innings. The Owls would strike right back when junior J.T. Chargois hit an RBI single in the eighth, tying the ballgame and bringing Texas State's scoreless innings streak to an end at 57 2/3 innings. In the ninth, sophomore Shane Hoelscher doubled into center field with one out to plate junior Jeremy Rathjen, allowing the Owls to rally late to take a 2-1 lead. But in the bottom half of 9th, with Chargois on to attempt the save, the resilient Bobcats rallied with a walk and a single to put two runners in scoring position with one out. With the infield playing in to protect the lead, Texas State senior Tyler Sibley drove a single up the middle to score the tying and winning runs, dealing the Owls a walk-off loss in San Marcos against one of the hottest teams in Division 1.

The Owls were able to rebound from their tough loss against the Bobcats with a 7-2 victory over Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi on Wednesday. Freshman pitcher Zech Lemond recorded the win for the Owls as he played 3 innings, allowing no runs and only 2 hits. Fuda and Ratterree led Rice with their bats as they both went 3 for 5 and drove in a run each.

Owls set for five straight against Top 10 competition

The toughest stretch of the schedule this season begins tonight for the Owls (fifth in the latest Baseball America poll), as they take on no. 2 ranked Stanford University in Palo Alto in the opener of a three-game non-conference series. Senior Matthew Reckling will get the start tonight against Cardinal ace Mark Appel, who is projected to be one of the top picks in the upcoming June MLB Draft. After returning to Houston, Rice will host No. 7 University of Arizona in a two-game midweek series starting Tuesday at Reckling Park. The Owls and Wildcats split a two game series last season in Tucson.

Coach Wayne Graham elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame

Legendary Head Coach Wayne Graham added yet another accolade to his celebrated career at Rice last Friday when he was named as one of the seven inductees to the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I was pretty shocked when this happened, but obviously gratified," Graham said in a statement to the media prior to Rice's game against Texas at Minute Maid Park last week. "When something like this happens, you think about all the good people who put you in position for this to happen. … There are things about college baseball that are truly unique: the passion of the kids every day, the desire to win every game, the fact that they are playing for the school and not for themselves. All those things make it a unique way to make a living."

Now in his 21st season at Rice, Coach Graham has led the Owls to 17 straight NCAA tournaments, 16 consecutive conference titles, seven trips to the College World Series and the 2003 National Championship.

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