HOUSTON -- Austin Kubitza is a talented 6-foot, 5-inch right-handed pitcher on Rice University's roster. He was hopeful of having a great start to the 2013 baseball season. He did -- and then some.

Last Friday, while much of the city was caught up in NBA All-Star Weekend, the Rice Owls baseball team opened the 2013 regular season by hosting nationally ranked Stanford.

Stanford was led by starting pitcher Mark Appel.

Appel, whose fastball is regularly timed in the high 90 s, could be the top pick overall in this year s MLB Draft.

With dozens of MLB scouts in the stands, Appel pitched okay, but Kubitza was outstanding.

The Rice junior pitched six shutout innings and struck out 12 along the way.

Wow, honestly. If you would have told me that was going to happen at the beginning of the season, I wouldn t have believed it, said Kubitza.

Kubitza s coach, Wayne Graham, said everyone in the dugout knew the importance of their season opener, and they all saw the dozens of MLB scouts in the stands behind home plate.

They all have to make a decision on Appel, and now they have to make a decision on Kubitza -- who is the real guy, said Graham.

Kubitza sat up in the stands with KHOU 11 Sports Matt Musil this week during practice. Musil had him put evaluate himself on the mound like the scouts did last Friday.

He s tall and lanky, said Kubitza. He s got good movement and he s able to hit both sides of the plate. He has a good secondary pitch. His strong point is the movement of his fastball and slider control.

He s as hard to hit as anyone that s ever pitched for us, said Graham.

As for the rest of the season, Kubitza has high hopes of leading the Owls to Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series.

The Owls won the title back in 2003. Nine years later, Kubitza thinks Rice is overdue to win another championship.

We re just looking to get to Omaha, get out of the regional and make it to the super regional and just be the team that everyone expects us to be. We want to be like that 03 team and be able to dog pile in Omaha, he said.

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