Rice baseball expects to return to contention in Conference USA under the new direction of Matt Bragga. To get there the Owls’ will need to find consistent offensive production.
Although pitching is expected to take the forefront in the upcoming season, Rice baseball will bring a solid mix of offensive weapons to the plate in 2019. Matt Bragga, renowned as an offensive whisper during his time at Tennessee Tech, should be able to get the most out of the Owls’ bats.
Here’s how the main position players set up entering the spring:
C – Collins
1B – DiCaprio
2B – Edwards
SS – T. Cruz
3B – Corneaux
OF – Cox, Beaulaurier, Brewer, A. Cruz, Gneiting
DH – Duluc, Dunlap
The proven commodities
Braden Comeaux (.319/.429/.412) and Andrew Dunlap (.260/.368/.435) were two of the more reliable bats in the lineup last season and both guys return in 2019. Comeaux has the potential to lead Conference USA in hits after finishing fourth last year. Dunlap took a step back from a career-best season in 2017, but has the experience and situational awareness to be a big asset at the plate.
Catcher Justin Collins could be the most important piece, though. After showing flashes as a freshman he’s started to pick things up this offseason. During the fall exhibitions, he blasted a grand slam against Sam Houston and was near perfect Texas A&M, going 4-for-5 with a double. He’ll be asked to be a consistent run producer in the middle of the lineup in 2019.
Who else steps up?
It remains to be seen how Matt Bragga will deploy the rest of the lineup. There are an array of guys who could fill the outfield spots. Trei Cruz and Bradley Gneiting both had their moments and will be counted upon to be more or less everyday players again this season.
Dominic Cox and Dominic DiCaprio are both wildcards to watch. DiCaprio brings some pop, provided he can make enough consistent contact to earn a spot in the starting nine. The same goes for Cox who appeared in 50 games last season despite holding a .182 average.