March 18, 2011
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HOUSTON -- Sophomore second baseman Michael Ratterree doubled with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Rice baseball team past visiting Louisiana Tech 5-1 in the opener of a three-game weekend series Friday evening at Reckling Park in Houston. The Owls posted a big five-run eighth to preserve another standout pitching performance from true freshman Austin Kubitza.
Both Kubitza and La Tech starter Trevor Petersen were locked in scoreless pitcher's duel for the first seven innings of the contest. La Tech made a defensive throw to the plate from the outfield to keep Rice off the scoreboard in the second inning, and the Owls stranded men at first and third in the fourth.
Kubitza was in high-gear early, striking out a career-high 10 Bulldogs in the first seven frames and making the tag on a Tech runner between third base and home plate in the fifth. The Owl rookie right-hander had allowed just seven base hits trough 7.1 innings when Bulldog third baseman Mark Threlkeld singled and moved into scoring position with a stolen base. Threlkeld came home on a pair of Rice passed balls to put La Tech in front 1-0 with just two more innings left to play.
The Owls came right back in the bottom of the frame and proceeded to load the bases with a leadoff walk to Chase McDowell, a single to center by Anthony Rendon and a bunt for base hit by Craig Manuel. Ratterree then delivered the clutch double to left field to score two runs and give the Blue & Gray a 2-1 lead. Shane Hoelscher followed with a double to center to drive-in two more and stretch the margin to 4-1. Rice worked its way through the order and in his second at bat of the inning McDowell singled in the team's fifth and final run of the game.
Rice freshman pitcher John Simms worked the top of the ninth and was equally sharp in striking out the side. The two Owl pitchers combined for a total of 13 Ks. In his last three starts, Kubitza has allowed just one earned run in 23.0 innings of work. He has held hitters in the current stretch to a composite .212 batting average with just two walks while striking out 24.
On the offensive side, Rice reached double-digit hits for the third time in the past four games. Ratterree, Manuel, Hoelscher and Derek Hamilton all had two hits for the Owls on the night.
Rice improved to 11-9 on the season. La Tech moved to 8-9 overall. The three-game weekend series between the teams continues through Sunday (Mar. 20). Saturday's first pitch is scheduled for 2 pm. Game time Sunday is 1 pm.