Feb. 17, 2013
John Simms carried a no hitter into the eighth inning and junior infielder Shane Hoelscher went 4-for-4 with a pair of RBI to pace the Owl baseball team to a 3-0 shutout of visiting Stanford Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park in Houston.
With Rice leading 3-0 to start the top of the eighth, Stanford's Austin Barr led-off with a double to the gap in right-center to spoil Simms' bid for what would have been only the eighth no-hitter in school history. The Owl right-hander retired the next Cardinal batter and then left to a standing ovation from the 4,041 fans in attendance for a solid day's work on the mound. The Woodlands, Tex., native pitched a total of 7.1 innings, allowing one hit with four walks and three strikeouts.
Sophomore Zech Lemond relieved Simms and quickly ended the Stanford threat in the eighth. The Owl fans were soon right back on their feet again as Lemond closed out a scoreless ninth for a 3-0 final. With the win Rice claimed the three-game weekend series over the Cardinal two games to one.
"You can't ask for more than that," said Rice head coach Wanye Graham, now in his 22nd season at the helm of the program. "We sure can't turn down seven and a-third no-hit innings."
Graham also liked what he saw of Owls jumping on the scoreboard for three quick runs in the bottom of the first inning. Freshman Leon Byrd led off the frame with a walk, Christian Stringer followed with a single and Michael Ratterree was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Byrd dashed home on Michael Aquino's grounder to the right side and Hoelscher drove-in two more with the first of his career-high tying four hit day. The Belton, Tex., native went on to hit safely in the in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings to raise his batting average to .455 on the young season. He also made a sensational defensive throw to get the lead runner at second base in the top of the fifth, and fought-off the sun to track down a foul ball right in front of the Stanford dugout for the second out of the ninth inning.
The Owl defense that turned three double plays Sunday had a big role in the pitching staff's the entire weekend. Rice's three starting pitchers of Simms, Austin Kubitza and Jordan Stephens held Stanford hitters to a combined 10-for-69 at the plate (.145) during the series.
Two outstanding teams battled head-to-head for the three well-played college games, and the fans responded. The total attendance for the three-game Rice-Stanford series was 12,237 fans, the largest combined crowd for an opening series in Reckling Park history.
The Owls are now 2-1 on the season. Rice closes-out its season-opening homestand on Tuesday (Feb. 19). The Blue & Gray host Dallas Baptist at 4:30 pm at Reckling Park.
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