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Rice Tops Houston, 5-2, On Sunday To Finish Off Season Sweep

Will first-year head coach Todd Whitting and Houston ever win against Rice again?

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Rice Baseball Finishes Season Sweep Of Houston, 5-2

On Sunday, Rice defeated Houston for the third time on the weekend, the fifth time on the year, and the fourteenth straight time overall.

The Owls scratched out four runs in three innings off of Cougar starter Mo Wiley, and even though Cougar relievers Jordan Mannisto and Dustin Fuerst held Rice to just one run the rest of the way, it wouldn't matter, as the UH lineup could never get anything going against Owl starter John Simms.

It seems like the idea of playing Rice is in the head of the Houston players. Obviously the Owls have a wealth of talented players every year, but fourteen straight wins? Game in, game out, it just seems like both teams know who is expected to win when Houston and Rice face off on the baseball diamond. First year Cougar head coach Todd Whitting has done an admirable job getting the most out of the talent available to him this year, but finding a way to break the psychological edge that the Owls have will have to be on his to-do list this off-season.

With the win, Rice improved to 32-16 on the year, while Houston fell to 22-26.  The Owls are now within two games of conference leader Southern Miss, while the Cougars are down to 9-9 in C-USA play.

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Rice Dominates Houston Again On Saturday, 12-6

The Rice Owls tamed red-hot Cougar starting pitcher Jordan Lewis, scoring early and often en route to a 12-6 win over Houston on Saturday afternoon. The victory was Rice's fourth over Houston on the year, extending their winning streak over the Cougars to 13 straight games.

After a three-RBI performance on Friday, Michael Ratterree didn't waste any time getting back into the swing of things on Saturday, plating the game's first run with an RBI single. Rice would take leads of 2-0 in the first, and 3-1 in the second, but the Cougars responded both times to cut the deficit back down to one.

The Owls put together a three-run fifth inning, however, sparked by a two-run double from - who else? - Ratterree, to take a 6-2 lead. They were never threatened from then on.

Houston did manage to put together 11 hits on the afternoon, just two fewer than the Owls, but Cougar errors and runners left on base were the difference in what ended up being a blowout victory.

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Rice Clinches Silver Glove With 8-2 Friday Win

Someday, the Houston Cougar baseball team will win a game against crosstown rival Rice. But that day wasn't Friday, as the Owls scored their twelfth straight victory in the series by an 8-2 final. The win was Rice's third over Houston this year, clinching them a victory in the annual Silver Glove Series.

Houston had some chances to get on the board early, getting the lead-off batter on base in the third and fourth, but failing to score in either frame.

Rice drew first blood, with a four-run fourth inning, capped off by a Michael Ratterree two-run homer.

The Cougars used three singles to plate two runs in the bottom of the fifth, cutting the deficit to 4-2. However, the Owls answered right back, scoring three more in the top of the sixth, including an RBI single by Ratteree, scoring Anthony Rendon, who had drawn a walk.

The win moved Rice out of a tie with Houston for second place in Conference USA. The series continues Saturday at Cougar Field at 3:00 PM.

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Cougars, Owls To Square Off In Silver Glove Series At Cougar Field

#24 Rice Owls (29-16, 9-6 C-USA) at Houston Cougars (22-23, 9-6 C-USA)

Cougar Field

Friday, 6:30 PM

Saturday, 3:00 PM

Sunday, 1:00 PM

For new to the Cougar baseball program might not remember the last time Houston managed to beat Rice on the baseball field. As a refresher, it was May 1st, 2009. Of the Cougars who made an appearance in that game, only four have played for the Coogs this year. Since that game, Houston has lost to their crosstown rivals a staggering 11 times in a row, including two Conference USA tournament games, and two mid-week games already this year.

Houston enters this series with just a 22-23 record, but a projected RPI of 51, which means that the NCAA tournament might not be out of reach if Houston can end the season strong. So to reiterate, the Cougars need a series win against a team they haven't beaten in their last eleven tries.

For the Owls, their 29-16 record and top 25 ranking mean that, barring a season-ending collapse of epic proportions, their 17th straight NCAA appearance is wrapped up. However, there is still plenty to play for. If the Owls finish the season hot, and maybe even overtake Southern Miss for the C-USA title, they would be in position to host a first-round regional. A slow finish could see them drop all the way to a regional 3-seed.

Rice is expected to throw freshman Austin Kubitza as Friday night's starter. The Colleyville native spurned the Pittsburgh Pirates after they drafted him in the 7th round out of high school, and his college career so far has made it obvious why Pittsburgh was so high on him. Through ten starts, he has a sparkling 1.79 ERA, with 67 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings.

Houston will counter with Jared Ray, who earned the win the last time Houston beat Rice. Ray missed the entire 2010 season with injuries, and will be making just his third appearance of 2011. His first two starts lasted just four and five innings, respectively, in an effort to bring him back slowly, but he allowed just a single run in each start.

Neither team has formally announced a Saturday starter, but it could potentially be Rice's Matthew Reckling (2.62 ERA in 11 starts, .197 BAA) against Houston's Jordan Lewis (3.06 ERA, 5-1 record, coming off a complete game shutout), a pitching match-up to drool over.

Offensively, the teams have put up fairly similar numbers so far. Houston has hit .286 as a team, Rice has hit .277, and both teams have struggled to hit the ball out of the park with the new bats - Rice has 16 team homers to Houston's 15. Each team has its own strength, however - the Cougars have shown a bit more gap power (106 combined doubles and triples to Rice's 71) while the Owls have shown better patience at the plate (226 walks to Houston's 150).

The brightest offensive star on display will be Rice's Anthony Rendon, who may very well end up being the #1 overall pick in the upcoming MLB draft. He has just four home runs on the year, but that is taking into account the deadened bats, and the fact that he hasn't had many opportunities, with 63 walks in 45 games. That would translate to 227 walks over a 162-game MLB season, which would put him just five walks shy of Barry Bonds' single-season record. In what some are calling a "slump" season for Rendon, he has put up a staggering .558 on-base percentage, and leads the team with 20 extra-base hits.

The Owls will be without Jeremy Rathjen, a mainstay in the Rice outfield the last two years, who is out for the rest of the year due to injury.

The Cougars are led by four .300-hitting regulars - free-swinging shortstop Chase Jensen (.335, 39 RBI), right fielder Caleb Ramsey (.331, team-leading 19 XBH, 39 RBI), pitcher/DH Matt Creel (.320, .456 SLG%) and second baseman Ryan Still (.300, team-leading 27 walks).

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