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Thursday, June 13, 2024 — Houston, TX

Rice continues winning streak in Conference play

By Ryan Glassman     4/4/13 7:00pm

After a midweek loss at Sam Houston State University cooled down Rice University's men's baseball team, the Owls welcomed Tulane University for a three-game set at Reckling Park last weekend.

In the Thursday night game, the Owls (21-10, 4-2) took a 3-0 lead when sophomore Ford Stainback helped sophomore Skyler Ewing score with a base hit in the third, just a half inning after junior Austin Kubitza stranded a pair of Tulane runners to preserve the shutout. Kubitza walked five batters in six innings of work but allowed just one run, leaving the game with a 4-1 lead. 

"I didn't really have much command of my slider," Kubitza said. "But luckily, I was able to get people out when I needed to, and the defense was working really well tonight."

The Green Wave added a run in the eighth to make things interesting, but sophomore Zech Lemond came in to record the final six outs of the game, striking out three for his seventh save of the year. 

Rice fell behind early in the Friday game due to a pair of unearned runs given up by sophomore Jordan Stephens, but Stephens settled in with yet another strong starting pitching performance, and the offense came alive in the middle innings. Junior Michael Aquino and Stainback delivered in the fourth and fifth innings with RBI hits to tie the game at 2-2 before Tulane pulled ahead in the top of the sixth with a run. But the offense responded quickly, rallying for three runs in the bottom half with three hits and three walks. Aquino and Ewing each doubled to start the inning, and the two players went a combined nine for 15 from the plate over the first two games of the series.

Stephens was taken out of the game with two outs in the seventh, allowing just one earned run for the night with his team leading 5-3. Lemond stepped up in relief, pitching the final 2 1/3 innings to pick up his eighth save of the year, a mark that leads the conference and ranks third in the nation.

Rice fell behind early in the finale Saturday after junior pitcher John Simms struggled through the first frame, allowing four runs with a pair of walks and two hit batters. Trailing 7-1 late in the game, the Owls mounted a comeback during the eighth inning after loading the bases with no outs. Aquino's RBI single plated the first run, and Ewing  hit a sacrifice fly to bring senior Christian Stringer home. Rice added two more runs with a balk and a sac fly from freshman Connor Teykl. Down 7-5, Rice brought the tying run into scoring position with one out. But after an RBI groundout made it a one-run game with the tying run just 90 feet away, the Owls popped out to end the game, dropping the game 7-6. The Owls improved to 4-2 in Conference USA play, just a game behind the conferenceleading University of Houston Cougars.

After the Tulane series, the Owls welcomed Texas State University for a non-league game Monday night at Reckling Park. By the third inning Texas State had a 3-2 lead, junior Chase McDowell and Simms held Texas State without a run over the next six innings. But Rice's offense could not capitalize trailing 3-2 headed to the bottom of the ninth. After a leadoff single from Aquino, the team leader with a .345 batting average, Rice loaded the bases with one out following an error and a walk, setting the table for Ewing. Ewing drew a walk to bring in Aquino, and a double play brought the game to extra innings. 

Following 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, Simms handed the ball off to freshman Blake Fox in the 11th. Fox held Texas State to just one hit in his two innings of work. With the score still tied at 3-3 in the 12th, senior Michael Ratterree led off the inning with a single before Ewing was hit by a pitch. After a failed bunt attempt and a strikeout, Stringer came up to the plate with two outs and the winning run on second base. Stringer singled through the right side, allowing Ratterree to score the winning run, bringing the Owls to 4-0 in extrainning games this year.

"I knew [Stringer] would come through," Head Coach Wayne Graham said. "There wasn't any doubt about that, and he was exactly the guy I wanted up to bat in that situation .... He did a nice job of hitting and won the game for his teammates."

McDowell, Simms and Fox held Texas State scoreless over the final nine innings of the game, lowering the group's ERA to 2.88 for the season, and placing Rice among the top 35 teams in the nation.

The Owls travel east for a three-game set with East Carolina University this weekend, beginning with the first pitch 5 p.m. Friday night

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