Rice baseball couldn’t hold off a disciplined Sam Houston offense, falling on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning on Wednesday.
Runs were expected to come in bunches when Sam Houston came to town on Wednesday. The Bearkats did indeed bring their bats, striking first on a one out single in the first. Rice would quickly even the score in the second before the two squads exchanged 4-run innings in the third.
It took Sam Houston five hits to score their four runs. Rice only needed one, utilizing a sacrifice fly followed by a three-run blast from Andrew Dunlap to level the game. Dunlap would come up with another big hit in the next inning, capping off a four-run fourth inning with 2 RBI double down the left field line.
Leading 9-5, the Rice offense cooled down dramatically. Meanwhile, Sam Houston wasn’t done. The Bearkats struck for two runs in the sixth and two more in the eighth. The go-ahead run, which they scored in the final frame, came on a bases loaded walk to nine-hole hitter Diego Davila. That proved to be the deciding run as Rice would fall at home, 10-9.
1. The Owls have solved their 3-4-5 spots
Cleanup hitter Trei Cruz was promoted to the leadoff spot when the Owls’ offense sputtered out of the gate. He stayed consistent, leading the team in on base percentage and slugging percentage, but someone else was going to have to help drive in the runs.
Rice has found their answer in the trio of Braden Comeaux, Alex Collins and Andrew Dunlap. Those three were responsible for seven RBI against Sam Houston, coming through with big hits with runners on base. Comeaux didn’t have a hit on Wednesday, but he did reach base twice, scoring both times.
2. Work to be done behind the backstop
Sam Houston trimmed their deficit to one run in the eighth inning on a single to center field. Then, with two runners on base, two wild pitches allowed the base runners to advance, eventually scoring the game-tying run. Rice threw three wild pitches on Wednesday, bringing their total to 18 wild pitches over 14 games.
Justin Collins had a strong weekend behind the plate, but he’s been charged with five passed balls this year. The fielding errors are trending in the right direction and the connection from the mount to the plate needs some tuning up as well.
3. Midweek pitching remains a question mark
Addison Moss put together a strong outing on Tuesday against Houston, but it doesn’t seem likely he sticks in the midweek role for long. He’s going to challenge for a weekend spot, possible pushing someone else to an extended relief role or one of the midweek jobs. That still leaves Rice in a quandary, especially on five-game weeks.
The combination of Drake Greenwood and Kel Bordwine have had their moments, but neither has taken the job for themselves, not yet. There are plenty of young arms in the pen waiting for their chance on the bump, too.