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Friday, May 27, 2022 — Houston, TX

Baseball tries to gain momentum this season

By Ryan Glassman     3/13/13 7:00pm

After a home shutout loss to Sam Houston State University last week, the Owls baseball team made the trip east to Miami, Fla., in hopes of improving upon a lackluster 7-6 record, the program's worst start through 13 games since the 2000 season.

"We're not hitting very well, and we're not hitting with men in scoring position at all," Head Coach Wayne Graham said prior to a three-game tilt with Florida International University. "[Hitting] comes, and it goes. I think it's streaky, so I think we'll get some this weekend."

The batters came around over the course of the weekend, but junior ace pitcher Austin Kubitza did not need much run support to help deliver a win in the opener Monday night. After three scoreless innings, junior Michael Aquino blasted his fifth home run of the season to put the Owls ahead, a lead they added to with two more runs in the fifth. Kubitza pitched into the seventh inning, allowing just two runs while striking out 11 batters throughout the evening. With Rice clinging onto a 4-2 lead in the seventh, junior John Simms stepped in for Kubitza and struck out two batters with runners on base to escape the jam. The Owls added three more runs in the eighth, largely due to a two-run single from sophomore Ford Stainback, and Simms closed out the game to give Rice a 7-2 win in the opener.

Rice had another superb outing Saturday, this time from sophomore Jordan Stephens. But Rice needed a bit more late-inning suspense to fight off the Florida International University Panthers. Following just one run over eight innings, Stephens was pulled after conceding to a leadoff single in the ninth.  He left the game with Rice ahead with a 3-1 lead. But FIU rallied for two more hits in the inning, including a two-run single to tie the game with just one out. Sophomore Zech Lemond came in to retire the final two batters of the frame, forcing extra innings. But after blowing the late lead, the Rice batters responded with a two-out rally of their own, with junior Keenan Cook and freshman Connor Teykl later delivering back-to-back RBI singles in the 10th inning to put Rice up 5-3. After senior Geoff Perrott got on base, freshman Leon Byrd drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in what ended up being the winning fourth run. The Panthers, with three hits in the bottom of the 10th, brought in two runs and put the tying run on second, but with two outs, Lemond forced a ground ball to end the game, clinching the road series for the Owls.

The Sunday finale got off to a slow start for the Owls, who were down 11-2 after FIU mashed 13 hits in the first four innings. Rice rallied late for three runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth, but the comeback attempt was unsuccessful. The Ows had a season-high 16 hits during the game, including five from Stainback and three each from seniors Christian Stringer and Michael Ratterree, but Rice lost the final game in Miami 11-7.

After the series road win, the team opened a seven-game homestand Tuesday with the first of a two-game set against Louisiana Tech University. After a frustrating outing a few weeks ago at Minute Maid Park, Simms put together a career night, posting his first complete game while striking out a career-high 12 batters. Led by Teykl's four hits, the freshman trio of Teykl, Byrd and Hunter Kopycinski combined for eight of Rice's 10 hits and three of the four RBIs in the 4-2 win. But the story of the evening was Simms and his ability to stymie the Bulldogs' bats while pitching the whole game.

"[Simms] pitched so well, and we needed him tonight," Graham said. "His fastball was alive, and he was able to move it in and out, ... We needed [Simms], and he came through with a complete game."

The Owls host Harvard University (1-6) for three games at Reckling Park this weekend, beginning with tonight's opener at 6:30 p.m.

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