April 3, 2012
Trailing 2-1 to start the bottom of the ninth inning, Rice came up with back-to-back base hits with one away. The Owls were aggressive, trying to hustle to get from first third on Keenan Cook's clutch pinch-hit to right field, but Sam Houston made the long throw to the hot corner get the second out of the inning. J.T. Chargois drew walk to put the potential tying run at second and winning run at first base. The Bearkats got out of the jam with a game-ending strikeout to post their ninth-straight win.
After completing a dramatic comeback two days ago for an 8-6 Conference USA victory over Southern Miss, Rice looked to have some more of the same come-back magic. Rice head coach Wayne Graham explained that where the Owls have been creating offensive chances to score runs (like the team did on both Sunday and again Tuesday night), the Blue & Gray has not always finished on all of those same opportunities.
"That's been the story of our offense this year," Graham said. "We're not getting the big hits when we need them. If you don't get the big hits when you need them you're going to be in trouble."
Rice pitchers held Sam Houston to just four hits on the night, but Sam Houston strung together three of the four on consecutive batters in the top of the second inning. Kevin Miller and Jake Arrington collected back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second. John Hale followed with a RBI double to left-center. Arrington came home on an RBI ground out that gave the Bearkats a 2-0 advantage.
The Owls worked to get runners in scoring position in the bottom of the third and fifth innings, but the men were left on base. Rice struck for a run in the bottom of the eighth on a solo homer by junior outfielder Jeremy Rathjen. The blast was Rathjen's team-leading sixth round-tripper of the season, and the 21st of his collegiate career. He cut the lead to one and set the stage for a dramatic bottom of the ninth.
Four Rice pitchers saw action on the night and delivered positive performances. Austin Kubitza completed 3.0 scheduled innings of work where he allowed three hits and struck out two. John Simms allowed just one hit, but matched it with a strikeout in 2.0 scoreless innings. Jordan Stephens fired 3.0 hitless frames that featured four strikeouts. Tyler Duffey pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to complete seven-straight scoreless innings. Solid pitching also caught coach Graham's attention.
"Kubitza threw well," Graham said. "They got to one pitch where they scored, but I thought he pitched well. We pitched a good game."
Rice is now 21-10 overall. Sam Houston State improved to 20-9.
The Owls next return to action on Thursday (April 5) with the start of a three-game C-USA league series at Tulane. Rice and the Green Wave play at 6:30 pm in New Orleans, La., on Thurs.-Fri, followed by a 1 pm Saturday game in the series finale.