April 12, 2011
HOUSTON - Rice freshman pitcher John Simms posted a career high 11 strikeouts in a career-long 7.2 innings to help lead the Owls to a 2-0 shutout victory over visiting Texas A&M Tuesday night at Reckling Park.
On a night when runs and hits proved to be at a premium for both teams, Simms delivered his best collegiate outing against a Texas A&M team ranked as high as No. 5 in the country. The freshman from The Woodlands, Tex., scattered three singles and hit a batter, but did not walk any while striking out 11.
After working out of a jam in the top of the first inning where two Aggies reached scoring position, the rookie right-hander was in control. Krey Bratsen singled with one away and Matt Juengel was hit by a pitch with two outs. The runners both advanced on a double-steal, but Simms retired the side with the first of his double-digit strikeouts.
After the first inning he then proceeded to retire 20 of the next 21 batters he faced. The lone Aggie to reach in that stretch was a base hit through the left side by Adam Smith in the fifth inning, but Simms had a part in quickly ending that threat. Rice first baseman J.T. Chargois caught a high foul ball near the Owl dugout and alertly turned and fired to Simms covering the base for a 3-1 double-play.
Rice was equally opportunistic to score the first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning. Michael Ratterree led off with a single and an Aggie fielding error on the play allowed him to take second base. He moved to third on a ground out and scored on Geoff Perrott's RBI grounder for a 1-0 Owl lead.
Texas A&M held firm for the next five innings and the 1-0 duel lasted into the eighth. In the top of the eighth, Simms retired the first two batters before surrendering a base hit. He left to a roaring ovation from the season-high 4,785 fans in attendance. Senior left-hander Tony Cingrani took the hill and promptly finished the eighth with a strikeout.
With a narrow 1-0 lead Rice could still wanted some insurance for the final frame. Perrott drew a leadoff walk and Craig Manuel laced a pinch-hit double down the left-field line to put men on second and third. Freshman Keenan Cook followed with a single into shallow left-center to score Perrott and double the margin to 2-0.
There still was no shortage of drama for the ninth. Aggie right fielder Tyler Naquin led off with a single to left field. Bratsen then hit a high and hard line drive that was heading to right-center field, but Ratterree snared the ball with a sensational leaping catch at his second baseman's spot. When he finally landed, he then fired back to first base to complete a key second double-play of the night. Another Cingrani strikeout later, the Owls' 13th of the night, and the Blue & Gray had secured a 2-0 victory.
The win was the first of Simms career (1-1). Cingrani earned his team-leading fourth save with 1.1 innings of one-hit relief, striking out two.
Rice notched its second win of the season over the Aggies, both by a shutout. In early March the Owls claimed a 1-0 victory over A&M behind a six-hit complete game effort by freshman right-hander Austin Kubitza. Rice is now 24-13 overall. Texas A&M moved to 24-9 on the season.
The Owls continue the current homestand with a return to Conference USA action this weekend. Rice hosts C-USA foe Tulane at Reckling Park April 15-17. Start times with the Green Wave are set for 6:30 pm Friday, 2 pm Saturday and 1 pm on Sunday. All times listed are Central Time.