Rice baseball opens conference play on the road against FAU after an up and down non-conference slate. Here’s what to expect from the other Owls.
Just like the Rice Owls, the FAU Owls have had a bit of an erratic start. FAU won their first three, lost the next six and has since won eight of their last nine. Prior to opening up conference play on Friday, FAU topped Quinnipiac in a pair of midweek games.
Rice fans remember their most recent series with FAU well, and not for pleasant reasons. FAU took the first two games by scores of 14-10 and 5-3 before literally walking off the field in the series finale, citing a travel curfew. The game was officially ruled a tie, but the mid-inning vanishing act certainly rubbed people the wrong way.
Let’s take a look at how the 2019 squad stacks up.
Projected Pitching Matchups
Friday – 5:30 pm: Matt Canterino (1-2, 1.50) vs Blake Sanderson (3-0, 3.33)
Saturday – 3:00 pm: Evan Kravetz (1-1, 4.35) vs Ryan Sandberg (0-1, 2.20)
Sunday – 11:00 am: Jackson Parthasarathy (2-2, 2.05) vs Mike Ruff (2-0, 6.75)
The FAU pitching staff is one of the most hittable units in Conference USA and they haven’t exactly faced the high caliber opponents Rice has in their nonconference games. Opposing batters are hitting .278 against FAU through 18 games against a staff which holds an uninspiring 4.22 ERA.
Their starting pitching has been serviceable. Ace Blake Sanderson has a 1.04 WHIP with 25 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched. Home runs have been his vex, though. He’s already given up four long balls on the season, the most on the team.
After him, Ryan Sandberg and Mike Ruff have both been solid. Sanberg hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his limited appearances this season. Ruff has allowed five runs over his last two starts, going seven innings in both games with 14 strikeouts and one walk allowed.
Then there’s the bullpen. Quite like Rice they have a few pieces they trust in high leverage situations and plenty of “hold your breath and cross your fingers”-type relievers. Jon Jon Kostantis (0.84 ERA over 10.2 innings) and Zach Sneider (15K in 14.2 innings with four saves) have emerged as the biggest pieces in their pen. Michael Schuler (2.08 ERA) and Vince Coletti (2.33 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) should also see some time over the weekend.
The offensive side of the ball is where FAU hopes to make their living this season. Francisco Urbaez is crushing the ball right now, smacking home runs in each of the team’s midweek games this week to raise his slugging percentage to a hefty .768 (for reference, Trei Cruz is slugging .584).
Urbaez isn’t the only deep threat in the FAU lineup. Eric Rivera and Gunnar Lambert have each blasted four dingers apiece, part of 22 collective home runs which are by far the most by and CUSA squad. Rivera’s 29 hits ranks second in the conference to Rice’s Bradley Gneiting who has 33.
Six players in the FAU lineup have double-digit RBI and only one of those six has struck out more than 13 times. This is a team that hits for average, packs some pop, and makes clutch hits. The Rice pitching staff is going to be tested.
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