Austin Kubitza, Rice baseball team too tough for Tulane

HOUSTON — The Tulane baseball team came to Reckling Park on Thursday night looking for consistency. Unfortunately, the Green Wave found it staring back at them on the mound in Rice junior Austin Kubitza.

The Conference USA preseason pitcher of the year held Tulane to just three hits and one run over six innings, striking out six as the Owls opened up the three-game series with a 4-2 win.

The only consistent thing for the Green Wave offense was the inning-ending double play. Tulane ended three innings with ground-ball double plays, quickly eliminating several scoring opportunities.

“We aren’t going to hit with a lot of power, and we haven’t been able to string a bunch of hits together,” Tulane coach Rick Jones said. “We have to win with pitching and defense.”

The Green Wave (14-14, 2-2) finished the game without an error, but a mishandled bunt and a misplayed throw on a Rice double-steal attempt led to two runs in the second inning.

“We were sloppy with the baseball, and it cost us today,” Jones said. “You never know what run is going to win it or lose it, or what inning that is going to happen in. Today, the second inning was tough for us.”

Tony Rizzotti (4-3) pitched a complete game for the Wave, allowing eight hits and four runs, while Sean Potkay and Garrett Cannizaro each had RBIs to lead Tulane at the plate.

“We just need to play with some more swagger,” Rizzoti said. “We are a good team, and we know we are a good team. We didn’t make any physical errors, but some mental mistakes really cost us today.”

Added Jones: “It was frustrating to waste the kind of performance Tony gave us tonight. He really showed us the type of warrior he was.”

Rice (19-9, 3-1) was led by Geoff Perrott, who had two hits and an RBI, while Keenan Cook had a game-high three hits.

“I thought we hit the ball better than four runs tonight,” Rice coach Wayne Graham said. “We hit some bullets that were just caught. If we can keep swinging the bat like this, we will win some games.”

Kubitza (4-1) was the star on the mound, bringing his strikeout total to 62 in 44.1 innings this season.

“It was important to come out and establish ourselves early,” Kubitza said. “My fastball was working and the defense was there — it’s great when you have people like that working behind you.”

Rice got the scoring started in the second inning after Michael Aquino singled to shallow center field. Cook followed with a bunt that Cannizaro couldn’t handle at third base. Connor Teykl’s RBI groundout scored Aquino to give the Owls a 1-0 lead.

Michael Ratterree followed with a walk and was thrown out at second on an attempted double-steal. Cook, however, reached home before Ratterree was tagged out at second, to put the Owls up 2-0.

In the third inning, Skyler Ewing doubled, stole third base and came around to score on a single by Stainback to give Rice a 3-0 lead.

The Green Wave got one back in the sixth inning. Boudreaux walked and advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by Blake Crohan. Cannizaro followed with a sacrifice fly to bring Tulane within 3-1.

Rice quickly got the run back, with an RBI double by Perrott scoring Aquino, who led off the Rice sixth with a walk.

Tulane made it 4-2 in the eighth when a Sean Potkay RBI single scored Boudreaux. But the Green Wave never got closer.

Rice reliever Zech Lemond came in and got the final six outs for the save.

The series continues Friday, when Tulane sends senior right-hander Alex Byo against Owls right-hander Jordan Stephens.