Baseball sweeps Marshall over the weekend
Owls Sweep Marshall 4/13 to 4/15, Move into Tie for Top Spot in C-USA
The Rice baseball team dominated a conference tilt this weekend with Marshall University, holding its hosts to just two runs over three games to improve to 27-11 on the year and 9-3 in Conference USA play.
Senior Matthew Reckling was dominant on Friday afternoon, pitching 6 2/3 shutout innings while holding the opponent to just four hits. Junior J.T. Chargois provided RBI base hits in the fifth and eighth innings to put Rice ahead 2-0 late, before the Owls took advantage of three Marshall errors in the ninth inning to erupt for seven runs en route to the 9-0 victory. Reckling, one of the early favorites for C-USA Pitcher of the Year, earned the win and improved to 6-0 on the season.
Sophomore Austin Kubitza made his second consecutive weekend start on Saturday, turning in another superb outing as he returns to his freshman-year form just in time for the stretch run. Kubitza pitched into the seventh inning, scattering four hits and recording six strikeouts on the afternoon.
Chargois paced the offense for the second afternoon with three more hits, as Rice cruised to a 5-1 win to clinch the weekend series.
Going for the sweep on Sunday morning, Head Coach Wayne Graham handed the ball to junior Andrew Benak, who rewarded his coach's decision with the third consecutive dominant outing from an Owls starter on the weekend.
With sharp command of his breaking ball, Benak held Marshall scoreless through 6 1/3 innings of work, striking out nine batters in his longest outing of the season. Senior Jeremy Rathjen's solo home run highlighted the offensive output, as Chargois worked out of some late-inning trouble to earn his seventh save, and Rice held on for the 3-1 win.
Owls Building Up Arms for Final Weeks of the Season
Traditionally a strong second-half team under Graham (Rice was 25-14 through 39 games last year before winning 16 of their next 21 games leading up to the NCAA tournament), the Owls appear poised for another late-season run as their weekend rotation appears to have taken form for the first time this season. Reckling has been the unquestioned ace of the staff this season, but the weekend spots behind him have seen their fair share of occupants.
After a strong opening night start, Kubitza struggled with his command for the earlier part of the season, as the Preseason C-USA Pitcher of the Year made a move to the midweek to straighten out his mechanics. Benak was a revelation in his first five starts, but hit a speed bump in conference play when he made the move to the weekend.
Freshman Jordan Stephens has been impressive as well this season, moving between Sunday and Tuesday spots in Graham's rotation.
But this past weekend, the three starters combined to allow just two runs, while striking out 22 batters in 19 2/3 innings, combining for the most complete pitching performance in a series this season.
With Kubitza working back into form and Benak seemingly recovered from a minor mid-season swoon, the Reckling-Kubitza-Benak rotation provides a weekend trio as potent as any team that Rice will face this season. In relief, Chargois, Wall, and Duffey have been consistently dominant over the past few weeks, as the bullpen is beginning to live up to its billing as perhaps the strength of the team.
With the weekend rotation set, and freshman Zech Lemond available with Stephens and Simms in the midweek, Rice's depth of pitching is beginning to take shape with just four weekends of play to go before the postseason kicks off.
In a conference race promising to come down to the final few games of the season, the Owls are one of the few teams with more answers than questions on the pitching staff as they get set for another second half run in 2012.
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