March 8, 2013
Austin Kubitza a 3-0 lead and that was all the room the junior right-hander needed as the Owls baseball team pulled away for an eventual 7-2 road victory at FIU Friday evening in Miami, Fla.
Kubitza finished with 11 strikeouts in 6.1 innings, but he had to work for his second win of the early season as heavy-hitting FIU threatened for runs in four of the game's first five innings. The Colleyville, Tex., native had only allowed the Golden Panthers a total of four hits through the first five frames, but FIU had a runner on third base in four of the innings and even had the bases-loaded with just one-away in the third.
Kubitza kept FIU off the board by striking out three in a row to end the bottom of the first inning, and he also used strikeouts to end the second and the fifth. In the bases-loaded third Kubitza got an infield ground ball where his teammates quickly turned a round-the-horn 5-4-3 double-play.
FIU starter Tyler Alexander was sharp retiring the first eight batters he faced, but the Owls broke through for three runs in the middle innings. With one out in the top of the fourth junior left-fielder Michael Aquino connected on a pitch for his team-leading fifth home run of the season. The Blue & Gray came back to add two more in the fifth. Ford Stainback drove in a run on a ground ball to the right side with the bases-loaded, and Christian Stringer followed with a bunt for base hit to drive in another to make it a 3-0 game.
The Golden Panthers fought back for a run on a pair of hits and a walk in the sixth, but the Owls got the run right back in its next turn at bat when Aquino patiently drew a bases-loaded walk to force in a run that made the score 4-1. FIU answered with a triple and sacrifice fly to start the bottom of the seventh that cut the margin back down to two, 4-2. Rice head coach Wayne Graham brought in John Simms with one out and one-on base in the seventh. Simms ended the FIU threat with consecutive strikeouts of his own.
The Owls then exploded for three runs on three hits and a walk in the top of the eighth. The big blow was a single to center by Stainback that scored two for a 7-2 advantage. Simms was unyielding in the final two frames to earn his first save of the season. The Kubitza and Simms duo combined for 15 strikeouts as the Owls improved to 8-6 overall. Stainback finished with a career-high three RBI. Freshman Connor Teykl went 2-for-4 in an eight-hit Rice attack, and also scored a pair of runs.
Rice has claimed the opener of the weekend series. Saturday's first pitch of the second game with the Golden Panthers is slated for 3 pm. Sunday's series finale is set for 10 am (all times listed are Central Time).
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