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No. 27 Rice Uses Four-Run Third to Down Harvard Baseball, 5-2

Joey Sliepka threw two innings without allowing a hit to keep the Crimson in today's game (photo Erik Williams).

HOUSTON – The Harvard baseball team stayed with No. 27 Rice, and had an opportunity to even the game in the ninth inning but fell 5-2 at Reckling Park Friday night. The Crimson had the tying run at the plate in the eighth and ninth innings, but each ended before Harvard could push across more than one run.

Sam Dodge worked five innings for Harvard and took the loss despite allowing just one earned run. Rice scored four unearned runs against Dodge and the Crimson, while the right-hander allowed six hits against 26 Rice batters. Owl junior Austin Kubitza, who was Conference USA's Freshman of the Year in 2011, threw seven innings of shutout baseball and struck out eight.

Neither team picked up a hit until the bottom of the third inning, when Rice crossed the plate four times thanks to two hits, two walks, two hit batsmen and a Crimson miscue. Connor Teykl had the big blow of the inning after Rice had already plated two runs, singling through the left side with the bases loaded for a pair of two-out RBI.

Rice tacked on another run in the fourth, after Mike Martin and Brandon Kregel picked up the Crimson's first hits in the top half of the inning. The bottom of the frame started on a positive note as Martin doubled off an Owl baserunner from centerfield after a Rice leadoff single, but a double, walk and another two-out RBI made it 5-0 Rice.

The Crimson's bullpen kept the team within striking distance, as Joey Sliepka and Sean O'Neill combined for three innings and allowed only two hits to blank the Owls from the sixth through the eighth innings.

Harvard broke through in the top of eighth and brought the tying run to the plate with no outs when Robert Wineski walked and Martin and Kregel both singled to load the bases. A strikeout set up DJ Link, Harvard's leading hitter coming into the weekend, and the freshman plated Wineski with a grounder to third that Rice could not handle. A strikeout concluded the Crimson's opportunity.

Michael Loughlin added a single in the ninth to start another Harvard rally that was aided by another error by Rice. After the hit, Wineski walked, his third time reaching base, Martin walked and Kregel's grounder to third was booted. The sequence sent Loughlin around to score and set up Harvard with runners on first and third with two outs. Ethan Ferreira was fanned by Rice closer Zech Lemond to give Rice the game one victory in the three-game set.

The Crimson and Owls meet at Reckling Field on Saturday and Sunday as part of Harvard's nine-day, nine-game spring break trip. Riceowls.com is streaming audio from each of the Harvard-Rice games for free, while live video is available through a subscription.