April 15, 2011
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HOUSTON - Sophomore centerfielder Michael Fuda's double down the right field line in the bottom of the eighth inning sparked a two-run Rice rally to lift the Owls' baseball team to a 3-1 victory over visiting Conference USA foe Tulane in the opening game of a three-game league series Friday night at Reckling Park.
With the contest knotted-up 1-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Owls pushed across a pair of runs on four hits to move in front with just the top of the ninth left to play. Owl reliever Tyler Duffey closed out the frame with a 1-2-3 inning to preserve the Blue & Gray's league-leading seventh C-USA win in conference play.
Both teams would have to battle for runs on a night when both starting pitchers were in gear. Tulane opened the game's scoring in the top of the second inning. Brandon Boudreaux drew a one-out walk and scored on a double by Frank Florio for a 1-0 Green Wave advantage.
Rice rallied to tie it up in the bottom of the third. Ryan Lewis lined a one-out double to the right field wall. Keenan Cook followed with an RBI single to center field that made it 1-1.
Freshman right-hander Austin Kubitza started on the mound for the Owls and was solid for 6.1 innings. He scattered six hits and walked three while striking out seven. He induced a double-play grounder to get out of the sixth, but got some help from left-handed reliever Tony Cingrani in the seventh. That inning Tulane collected a pair of hits and loaded the bases with a two-out walk, but Cingrani ended the threat with a strikeout.
The Owls then put a pair of men on base in the bottom of the seventh, but Tulane worked out of jam with a strikeout of their own. In the top of the eighth Tulane right fielder Bowen Woodson smashed the ball to the deepest part of the park in center field, but Fuda ran it down and finished the play with an extra-base-saving catch. He then followed the defensive gem with a heroic hit in his team's turn at bat.
Michael Ratterree led off with a base hit and he moved into scoring position on Craig Manuel's sacrifice bunt. Fuda delivered a double down the right field line to break the 1-1 deadlock, but the Owls were looking for some insurance. Shane Hoelscher back up the middle of the field to drive Fuda home and stretch the margin to 3-1.
Five Owls finished the night with two or more hits in a 12-hit attack. Cingrani notched his second win working in relief. Duffey earned his first save of the season with a spotless ninth.
Rice improved to 25-13 on the season and a league-leading 7-3 mark in conference play. Tulane is now 20-14 overall and 3-7 in C-USA. The three-game series continues through Sunday at Reckling Park. Saturday's game begins at 2 pm while first pitch Sunday is 1 pm.