March 27, 2012
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BEAUMONT, Tex. - The Rice baseball team's offense was in high gear with a season-best 17 runs on 15 hits, including nine for extra bases, on the way to a 17-2 victory over longtime rival Lamar Tuesday night at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont.
Not only was it a season-high in runs, it was the second time in the last three games for Rice to post at least 15 runs on the scoreboard. Improved hitting is one thing head coach Wayne Graham was glad to see.
"We hit the ball very well, which is encouraging," said coach Graham. "We had been working on a little different approach to hitting and today is more what we wanted. We hit the ball hard."
Rice quickly jumped on the scoreboard for three runs in the top of the first inning. JT Chargois drew a one-out walk and hustled to third on a chopping base hit to right by Christian Stringer. Jeremy Rathjen followed with a double down the left field line to score one. Stringer came home on Shane Hoelscher's RBI grounder. Michael Fuda stroked a two-out single up the middle for the 3-0 advantage.
Lamar took advantage of a Rice fielding error for a run in the bottom of the third. Aaron Olivas drew a walk and moved up 90 feet on a single by Jude Vidrine. After Olivas advanced to third on a fielder's choice for the second out of the inning, the Blue & Gray appeared to be out of danger with a ground ball that could have retired the side. Rice mishandled the ball, however, allowing Olivas to score that made it 3-1.
The Owls broke the close game wide open with an inning season-high 10 runs in the fifth. Rice sent a total of 13 men to the plate in a hitting show that included a home run, two triples and two doubles.
Six different Rice hitters had two or more hits in the contest, led by Ryan Lewis with three. The junior first baseman drove in a pair of runs and scored twice by hitting a single, double and a triple. The top five hitters in the lineup all had two hits. Five players finished with two RBI.
The offensive fireworks provided plenty of room for Owl starting pitcher Austin Kubitza. The sophomore right-hander was solid in 5.0 innings of work, scattering three hits and a walk and allowing a run that was unearned. He was followed on the mound by John Simms, Zech Lemond, Chase McDowell and Trevor Simms. The bullpen allowed a run on three hits while striking out six over the final four innings.
"Austin is looking like he's pretty close to where he needs to be," coach Graham said. "He still has a little more work to do. I thought he threw well. I thought Zech Lemond threw extraordinarily well. We played well and need to be able to carry this over into a big conference series this weekend."
Rice has closed-out a four-game road swing and can now look forward to playing the next four-straight at home. The Owls are back at Reckling Park this weekend to host C-USA power Southern Miss in a three-game league series beginning on March 31. Friday's first pitch with the Golden Eagles is set for 6:30 pm. Saturday's game begins at 3:30 pm. Sunday's series finale is 1:07 pm and will be televised by Fox Sports Net.