April 5, 2013
With its seventh shutout of the season Rice improved to 22-10 on the year and moved into a tie for first place in the C-USA standings with a 5-2 league record. East Carolina is now 14-16 overall and 0-4 in conference.
The contest proved a sensational pitcher's duel where starters Austin Kubitza of Rice and Jeff Hoffman of ECU alternated shutout innings for the first eight frames. Kubitza scattered four hits and posted ten strikeouts for 7.1 scoreless innings before giving way to reliever Zech Lemond. Hoffman also allowed four hits and had nine strikeouts of his own after eight complete innings.
Rice staged a rally in the top of the ninth. Christian Stringer led off with a single to left field and Ford Stainback followed with base hit that skipped through the left side. Both runners advanced to scoring position on Michael Aquino's sacrifice bunt, marking the only the second time in the game for a runner from either team to reach third base.
ECU brought the infield in, and attempted to make the play at the plate on a high chop by Keenan Cook. The throw, however, was wide and went past Pirate catcher Travis Watkins toward the backstop on the third base side. Stringer scored easily, but a hustling Stainback also took advantage of the miscue for an extra 90 feet and a 2-0 Owl lead. Rice added one final insurance run with an RBI double by Michael Ratterree that stretched the margin to 3-0.
ECU continued to fight in the bottom of the ninth. Zach Houchins laced a two-out double down the left field line to get a runner in scoring position, but Lemond ended the threat and kept the shutout intact with a 3-0 final. Lemond tallied his third win of the season with 1.2 scoreless innings, striking out four of the six Pirates he faced.
With Kubitza and Lemond combining on the shutout, Rice pitchers have not surrendered a run for a total of 18-consecutive innings. On April 1, the Owls held Texas State scoreless for nine-straight innings in a game the Blue & Gray won 3-2 in extra innings. The Rice offensive trio of Stringer, Stainback and Geoff Perrott all finished Friday with two hits in an eight-hit attack.
The C-USA weekend series at ECU continues through Sunday. Start time in Saturday's second game is slated for 2 pm Eastern Time (1 pm Central).