March 15, 2013Austin Kubitza helped lift he Rice baseball team to a 5-2 victory over visiting Harvard in the opening game of a three-game weekend series Friday night at Reckling Park in Houston.
Rice batted around for four runs in the bottom of the third inning on a pair of hits, two walks, two hit batters and a Harvard fielding error. The Blue & Gray loaded the bases with two away, but Harvard's fielding miscue on a ground ball allowed two runs to come home and kept Rice alive at the plate with men still on second and third. Owl freshman Connor Teykl made the most of the extended inning and added two more runs with a single through the left side to stretch the lead to 4-0. In the bottom of the fourth, freshman Leon Byrd lined a two-out double down the right field line and scored on an RBI single by Michael Aquino.
Kubitza meanwhile held the Crimson in check with 7.0 shutout innings. The Colleyville, Tex., native allowed three hits and four walks while striking out eight. Harvard was able to get runners in scoring position in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings, but Kubitza worked his way out of danger each time. He twice ended Crimson threats with an inning-ending strikeout.
"Austin is tough to hit," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham, now in his 22nd season at the helm of the Owl program. "He'll be the first to tell you today was not his very best, but you have to give him credit because seven shutout innings also speaks for itself. He had some free passes with (four) walks and (two) hit batters, but he also can get himself out of an inning."
"We did not have a good offensive game," coach Graham added. "It was good to see Leon and (catcher) Geoff (Perrott) get a couple of hits. Geoff has been able to raise his average recently and Leon is starting to do the same. Leon's only a freshman and we're confident in his progress."
Harvard continued to battle, and added a runs in the eighth and ninth off the Owl bullpen. DJ Link drove in the Crimson's first run of the game with one away and the base-loaded in the eighth. Harvard then took advantage of a Rice fielding error for an unearned in the top of the ninth. The team was looking before Owl reliever Zech Lemond closed the door for a 5-2 final. Lemond earned his fourth save. Kubitza notched his third win of the season without a loss. Byrd and Perrott both finished with two hits each in an eight-hit attack.
"Zech threw well, but we gave up an unearned run in the ninth when we didn't need to," coach Graham said. "Knowing we have Zech is big. It was good to get a win, but we need to play better - no question."
Rice improved to 12-7 overall. Harvard dropped to 1-7 on the season.
The weekend series against Harvard continues through Sunday. The remaining game times against the Crimson are set for 2 pm Saturday and 1 pm Sunday. Rice's current homestand continues into next week. The Blue & Gray host state rivals Stephen F. Austin on March 19 at 6:30 pm, followed by a home game against UTSA March 20 at 6 pm.