May 22, 2013
HOUSTON - Junior right-hander Austin Kubitza struck out nine in 7.2 innings for his eighth win of the season as the Rice baseball team claimed a 3-1 victory over visiting UAB in the Owls' opening game of the Conference USA Championship Wednesday night at Reckling Park.
After Kubitza worked his way out of a jam in the top of the third inning where runners were on first and third base, his teammates on offense gave him a lead in the bottom of the same frame. Ford Stainback drew a one-out walk and stole second to move into scoring position. He hustled home on Keenan Cook's RBI single to center for a 1-0 lead.
UAB came right back and tied the game in the top of the fourth. John Frost collected the Blazers' first hit of the night and stole second base. He advanced the next to stations on ground out to tie the contest, 1-1.
With no shortage of drama, Rice broke the deadlock in the bottom of the fourth on a leadoff inside-the-park home run by Michael Aquino. Aquino blasted the first pitch to centerfield and dashed around the bases as the ball bounced at a sharp angle off the wall. The Owls added one more insurance run in the same inning to stretch the margin to 3-1.
That was more than enough room for Kubitza, who held the Blazers to a run on just two singles and one walk while striking out nine in 7.2 innings. John Simms finished the eighth inning and stopper Zech Lemond fired a scoreless ninth to earn his single-season school record 14th save of the year.
"We're happy to have a win," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham, now in his 22nd season a the helm of the program. "Austin pitched well the relief pitching good again tonight.
"I don't think we did such a poor job of hitting," coach Graham explained of the Owls' seven-hit attack. "I think their pitcher (Chase Mallard) pitched really well. It was just a very tough game to win."
The Owls improved to 38-17 on the season. UAB dropped to 22-35 overall.
Rice returns to play its second game in the tournament on Thursday night against UCF. First pitch against the Knights is slated for 7 pm at Reckling Park.