March 16, 2013
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HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team batted around for five runs in the bottom of the first inning and finished the day with double-digit hits as the Owls claimed a 9-2 victory over visiting Harvard in the middle game of a three-game weekend series Saturday afternoon in Houston.
Rice head coach Wayne Graham knew his squad was capable of amassing hits while also getting close to double-digit runs on the scoreboard. The head coach just wanted to see the Owls have that kind of offensive outburst.
"We had a pretty good hitting day, and that's more than just being able to build up a hit total," coach Graham explained. "We hit more balls hard - hard to the gaps, and hard to the corners or on the lines. We were able to score a few runs right away, and hopefully that is something we'll be able to keep going."
Rice was quick to take a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Leon Byrd and Ford Stainback walked and singled to get on base and both runners scored on Christian Stringer's triple to the right field cormer. Three more consecutive singles by Connor Teykl, Keenan Cook and Michael Aquino made the score 3-0 and kept the early rally going. Michael Ratterree was hit by a Harvard pitch to load the bases, and two batters later Skyler Ewing was hit with two-away to force in Aquino with the fourth run. Byrd then walked for the second time in the inning to force home Ratterree for a 5-0 advantage.
The Blue & Gray was back for more in the second inning. Cook lined a two-out single up the middle and moved into scoring position with a stolen base. He sprinted home on Aquino's RBI single to stretch the lead to 6-0.
That was plenty of room for sophomore starting pitcher Jordan Stephens. The Alvin, Tex., native worked a total of 7.0 innings, allowing a pair of runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out eight Harvard hitters overall, including the side in the fourth after the Crimson put men on second and third base.
"Where I thought Jordan did a nice job today, I did not think our infield defense did as well as it could have in supporting him," coach Graham said. "He was getting ground balls, which we want turned into outs. We must have better defense from our infield."
Harvard fought for a run in the sixth on a bases-loaded ground out, and then one more in the seventh on an RBI single by designated hitter Nick Saathoff. On both occasions Rice answered the Harvard run with a run of its own. In the sixth doubles by Stainback and Teykl plated one. In the seventh Aquino singled and advanced around the stations before trotting home from third after a Harvard throwing error. The Blue & Gray added its final run of the contest in the eighth when Stringer led off with a double and was driven-in by Ratterree for 9-2 final.
Aquino and Teykl shared the game lead with three hits and combined for three RBI and two runs scored. Stainback, Stringer and Cook all contributed two hits each. Almost lost in all the offensive fireworks, redshirt freshman pitcher Matt Ditman was spotless in the final two innings in relief of Stephens. The right-hander from Richmond, Tex., did not allow any runs, hits nor walks in the final frames while striking out three.
"I thought Matt was a real bright spot," coach Graham added. "He relaxed to today. By relaxing, he was able to throw hard and his curve was unhittable today. Outings like that will certainly help us."
Rice improved to 13-7 overall with its fourth-straight win. Harvard is now 1-8 on the season. The three-game weekend series concludes on Sunday. First pitch with the Crimson is set for 1 pm. 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 6:30 pm.