Great pitching leads to UH loss, sets up rubber match
Both starting pitchers from Saturday’s contest between UH and Rice walked off the mound to an ovation from the crowd.
The applause can be attributed to the uniqueness of an in-city rivalry and the dominance of the two starters.
It was a pitching duel with low offensive output until Rice expanded its lead in the ninth inning for a 4-0 victory.
UH senior pitcher Austin Pruitt went 8.2 innings giving up four runs on only four hits and throwing more than 100 pitches, but Rice starter Austin Kubitza was a little bit better on Saturday at Cougar Field.
Kubitza threw seven scoreless innings giving up only two hits, striking out 10 batters and navigating through trouble all evening. The Cougars went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and were shutout despite getting a leadoff hitter on base five times.
“He would get ahead of us, put two strikes on us and then not throw the ball anywhere near the zone,” said head coach Todd Whitting. “When you have plus stuff like he has and everyone in the lineup is doing the same thing, you know the pitcher on the other team is good.”
Pruitt gave up only two hits until the top of the ninth when Rice got three insurance runs. Rice senior right fielder Michael Ratterree belted a two-run homer that left little doubt when the ball jumped off the bat.
“I had pretty good control with my fastball and my breaking pitch. I had a little bit more movement on my breaking pitch and fastball than normal,” Pruitt said.
Whitting said this level of pitching was what he expected. He said UH got the pitching it needed but didn’t get timely hitting that would have changed the game.
“Today was as advertised. You’ve got two great college baseball pitchers going,” Whitting said. “I thought Pruitt was every bit as good as Austin Kubitza, we just didn’t get the knock when we needed it. ”
Rice put a run on the board in the third inning without a hit as junior designated hitter Michael Aquino reached base on a walk then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout to the left side of the infield.
It was all of the cushion that the Owls would need because Zech Lemond picked up where Kubitza left off and threw two scoreless innings.
The Cougars didn’t make any errors on defense, but had a few missteps that cost them on the basepath. During the eighth inning, freshman outfielder Kyle Survance was thrown out stealing second base, and sophomore shortstop Frankie Ratcliff was picked off at first.
The Cougars have a chance to take the series and the Silver Glove for the first time since 2000 at 1 p.m. Sunday at Cougar Field for the rubber match.
“We made a couple mistakes, even myself, I made a few mistakes, but it happens,” Ratcliff said. “That’s baseball. We’re just going to come out tomorrow with a lot of energy and try to win the series.”