Rice baseball took a midweek contest with the Texas Longhorns down to the wire but couldn’t find the clutch hit, falling 3-1.
Another tough midweek test went against Rice as the Owls dropped a close one to Texas in Austin on Tuesday evening. The win gave Texas a sweep of the season series with Rice in their final scheduled meeting of the season. A third bout between the two Texas teams would require both teams to make the postseason. Here are a few things to take away from the defeat.
More arms to trust
In a rematch of an 11-4 February game at Reckling Park, pitching proved to be the deciding factor even though each staff was stretched thin. Rice used six arms; Texas threw five. None allowed more than one run and only the starters (Kel Bordwine for Rice and Ty Madden for Texas) allowed more than two hits.
The same Rice bullpen which was beaten up the first time around proved much more capable in their encore performance. After falling to FIU over the weekend, Coach Matt Bragga said he had five relievers he felt he could trust to produce consistently. That number could be growing.
Drake Greenwood allowed five runs in the first game with the Longhorns, but worked a scoreless inning on five pitches on Tuesday. Dalton Wood had a scoreless frame while Blair Lewis pumped strikes, allowing a single earned run in two innings. The pen isn’t perfect, but this was a step in the right direction.
A Justin Collins conundrum
Collins was hit on a ricochet in the series finale against FIU. He stayed in the game to catch, but was removed in the ninth inning without swinging the bat following the injury. Brandt Frazier suited up behind the plate against Texas. He’s hitting .152 on the season. Collins has a .267 average with a .408 on base percentage, leading the team with 27 walks. The advantage he provides at the plate and behind hit is significant.
Bragga has yet to give an indication on when Collins will return to the lineup. The longer he’s out, the larger the problem. He’s one of the few position players Rice can ill afford to lose for any meaningful amount of time.
Start a new streak
One loss has led to two for Rice too many times this season. In games following a loss Rice is 7-13, turning a single deficit into a losing streak four times in eight opportunities. The Owls have had losing streaks of 5, 2, and 7 and are in the midst of a three-game skid. Conversely, they’ve won more than three games in a row once this year.
Rice has always had some sort of answer to a bad week, but the margin for error has shrunk as the season grows older and older. Rice is seven games under .500 and six games back in the CUSA standings. If they’re going to rally, there’s no better time than the present.
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