Rice baseball jumped out to a sizable lead letting out their offensive frustrations with a lopsided home win over Prairie View A&M.
Rodrigo Duluc stood on the steps of the dugout with his teammates all season, not once stepping foot in the batter’s box until Wednesday’s game against Prairie View A&M. He looked on as the team dropped midweek contests to Arizona and Texas. He was watching when UC Irvine swept Rice at home, allowing the home team to score just nine runs over the course of the weekend.
Then, finally, after patiently waiting for his turn, Duluc took his place at the plate and let it rip. With the bases loaded two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Duluc deposited a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall. The Grand Slam broke a 13-inning scoreless streak, jumpstarting an offense in desperate need of a spark.
Staked to an early 4-0 lead, Rice would pour on at least one run over the first five innings. The Owls stretched their advantage to 10-2, and although Prairie View was able to creep back with a three-run sixth inning. It wasn’t enough to cause any serious concern, but Rice would put all hopes of a Prairie View A&M comeback to bed in the seventh.
Rice scored 13 runs on 14 hits, coming one batter shy of hitting around, twice. The mashed three home runs within the inning. The final score of 25-5 marked the most runs scored by Rice since a 26-17 victory over UAB in 2017.
1. The offense definitely exists
Rice hit .091 with runners in scoring position over the weekend, converting two opportunities in the span of three games. On Wednesday, Rice not only surpassed their weekend run total, but they also picked up 12 hits with runners in scoring position 20 tries.
In addition to Duluc’s coming out party, Bradley Gneiting and Andrew Dunlap had career-high five-hit games. Trei Cruz had his second grand slam of the season.
Justin Collins, Cade Edwards, Braden Comeaux each had multi-hit games. Prairie View is far from the caliber of pitching staffs the Owls have faced to this point and have on the docket this coming weekend. But, Rice should have scored in bunches against this squad, and they rose to the occasion — and then some. If Wednesday night isn’t proof they’re capable of packing a punch at the plate this season, what not much else will.
2. Kel Bordwine bounces back
Almost two weeks prior, the first win of the Matt Bragga era was made possible by a strong relief outing by Kel Bordwine. He threw the first three extra innings on the Saturday game against Rhode Island, allowing three hits, one walk and striking out two. Although he was charged with the go-ahead run, it was Zach Esquivel who allowed the runner to circle the bases.
His next outing wasn’t nearly as encouraging. Arizona knocked him out of his prior Wednesday start after he allowed six hits and three runs in the first three innings. Which Bordwine is the real deal? A five-hit, no earned run performance through five against Prairie View is a vote in favor of the season-opening version.
3. A complete team win is what this team needed
For whatever the reason, Rice hasn’t really gotten the offense, defense and pitching in sync this season. The Owls are still searching for their first error-free game of 2019, but the rotation and the lineup have each had bursts. Bordwine started the Owls off on the right foot on the mound and the offense was electric. The relief corps had a hiccup before settling down late in the game. The defense, again, wasn’t perfect. And Rice won by 20.
Winning big with some built-in mistakes is a step in the right direction. If Rice wants to contend with the heavyweights of the sport, they’ll need to start combining all phases in the same game. This was definitely a step in the right direction.