In a battle of preseason All-America pitchers, Austin Kubitza got the better end of Friday's season-opener as the hurler led No. 17 Rice to a 5-1 win over visiting Stanford. Kubitza (1-0) fanned a career-high 12 in front of 4,317 fans at Reckling Park.
Kubitza's Cardinal counterpart, Mark Appel (0-1), shouldered the loss after giving up five runs two earned with three strikeouts in 5.0 frames for seventh-ranked Stanford (0-1).
Both teams managed seven hits but Rice (1-0) scratched across a trio of unearned runs in a three-score third frame to put the game out of Cardinal reach.
Stanford left 12 on base, stranding runners on first and second in the opening three stanzas.
Kubitza had pair of punchouts in the first before Danny Diekroeger singled through the right side. Rice ended the threat on Austin Wilson's groundout to third, leaving two Cardinal on base.
Stanford got nothing when Kubitza issued two of his four walks in the second inning. Alex Blandino and Justin Ringo drew consecutive walks but Blandino was picked off and Kubitza induced a pair of groundouts to keep the Cardinal off the board.
Appel issued Christian Stringer a leadoff walk in the second and surrendered a double to Shane Hoelscher. Rice took a 1-0 lead on Keenan Cook's sacrifice fly to center. Skyler Ewing grounded through the left side of the infield to bring in Hoelscher and give Rice a 2-0 cushion.
Appel walked three of the 25 batters faced on the afternoon.
Diekroeger added a one-out single in the third but was left on base along with Lonnie Kauppila, who wore a Kubitza offering. Diekroeger led the Cardinal with a pair of hits.
Blandino singled and stole second but was left on third base in the top of the fourth.
Rice made its move in the fifth with a three-spot, two of which came when Ford Stainback's bunt was misplayed twice by Cardinal catcher Wayne Taylor.
Stanford left runners on the corners in the sixth, and Brian Ragira's eighth-inning double set the table for Ringo's bloop single to right to cut into the Owl's lead, 5-1.
Marcus Brakeman, Sahil Bloom and Sam Lindquist each threw 1.0 inning and combined to leave the Owls hitless and scoreless.
The Cardinal suffered its first season-opening loss since 2007.
The two teams continue the three-game series at noon (PT) on Saturday.
Stanford put together the team performance it had been searching for all season in Friday night's showdown against Arizona State.
And the best part, says head coach Kristen Smyth, is the team's potential is even greater.
Stanford (7-2) delivered its most dominating performance of the season, recording a season-best overall team score, to defeat Arizona State (2-5), 197.275-195.250, in front of a energized crowd of over 1,400 in Maples Pavilion.
There were numerous highlights throughout the night with four different Cardinal claiming first-place finishes on each apparatus, and outscoring the Sun Devils as a team in every event.
But the night belonged to senior Ashley Morgan, who capped her night with a first-place finish on floor exercise with a 9.950 en route to a career high all-around title scoring 39.550.
"She's one of the top all-arounders in the country," said Smyth. "She has been steady and getting better every single weekend."
Morgan tied her career best on floor (9.950) and balance beam (9.900), and earned a season-best on uneven bars (9.875).
Stanford got off to a great start on vault, where it was led by sophomore Ivana Hong, who claimed the individual title with a 9.900, tying her season-best. She was joined in the top two by senior Nicole Dayton who notched a 9.875.
The Cardinal kept the momentum going on bars where it recorded a season-high team score of 49.375 and claimed the meet's top six scores with each gymnast scoring a 9.800 or higher.
Sophomore Kristina Vaculik led the way, matching her career-best of 9.925, for a first-place finish. All-Americans Samantha Shapiro and Morgan joined Vaculik in the top three with scores of 9.900 and 9.875, respectively.
Sophomore Alex Archer made her second appearance of the season in the event and recorded a career-best 9.825 to finish fifth.
The night didn't come without its adversity, however.
After a strong start on balance beam with Shona Morgan and Ashley Morgan hitting their routines for scores of 9.825 and 9.900, the team had an uncharacteristic miss from Hong.
Instead of losing its composure, Stanford junior Amanda Spinner delivered the night's best score on beam and tied her career best with a 9.925. It was a performance that seemed to settle the Cardinal and help the team maintain its momentum.
"I loved the way the team dug down deeply and covered each other with great routines," Smyth said. "Amanda Spinner's routine was clutch tonight."
Not only did Stanford recover from the missed routine, it posted its second-highest team score of the season in the event with a 49.375.
Stanford saved perhaps its most impressive performance of the night for last, on floor. Though, it didn't come without its own challenge.
The Cardinal's first performer had a missed routine, which meant the rest of the performer's scores would likely count toward the team score.
The Cardinal didn't disappoint and delivered five consecutive scores of 9.775 or higher and claimed the top three spots in the event, highlighted by Ashley Morgan's 9.950.
Shona Morgan tied her career best (9.925) and Shapiro set a career best (9.875) to finish second and third. Freshman Taylor Rice anchored the floor team with a career-best performance of her own, earning a 9.875 to tie Shapiro for third.
A major focus in practice has been on finishing meets strong, specifically on floor, said Smyth, who believes the lineup in the event will only continue to strengthen.
Stanford will look to carry its momentum from the meet into next weekend's marquee Pac-12 matchup with No. 6 Utah in Salt Lake City.
"We're right on track with where we want to be," said Smyth. "There's still room for improvement. We don't want to be at our very best this weekend or next. We want to keep getting better and making improvements."
Teagan Gerhart and Kelsey Stevens combined to throw a pair of shutouts on the first day of the Stanford Invitational on Friday.
The 20th-ranked Cardinal opened with a 9-0 run-rule win over Cal State Northridge and a 7-0 victory over CSU Bakersfield,.
Stevens earned the win against the Matadors, earning her first collegiate shutout and improving to 3-1 overall. She had a perfect game going until the fifth inning. She recorded five strikeouts and leads the team with 36 strikeouts.
Gerhart got the win against CSU Bakersfield, improving to 4-1 overall.
Outfielder Sarah Hassman led the team with three hits on five at-bats, scoring four runs and driving in two on the day.
Freshman catcher Jessica Plaza hit a two-run home run and a triple for three RBI, while sophomore third baseman Hanna Winter was 4-for-7 with three runs scored.
The Cardinal will face both Cal State Northridge and CSU Bakersfield again on Saturday, meeting the Matadors at 11:45 a.m. and the Roadrunners at 4:15 p.m.
Brian Cook had 21 kills and led No. 3 Stanford to a strong hitting night in a 22-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-21 men's volleyball victory over No. 8 Cal State Northridge in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play on Friday night.
Stanford (9-4 overall, 6-4 MPSF) had a season-high .466 hitting percentage, including .692 during the pivotal second and third sets when the Cardinal rallied to pull ahead. The Cardinal had only two hitting errors during that stretch, with Cook taking 14 swings without an error, and had 11 kills.
Steven Irvin had 14 kills and only two errors (.533) and had eight digs, and Cook hit .459. Setter James Shaw had 52 assists, a team season-high for a four-set match, as the Cardinal earned its sixth consecutive victory in the series against the Matadors (6-5, 4-5).
Stanford, which closed within 1 1/2 games of first-place BYU (8-3, 7-2) next plays at No. 4 Long Beach State (10-4, 8-3) on Saturday night at 7:30.
Seventh-ranked Stanford dropped a 9-0 decision to No. 2 Harvard in the first round of the Howe Cup, the sport's national championship, Friday at Yale.
The Cardinal (10-5) meet Cornell in a consolation semifinal Saturday.