Rice baseball got off to a rough start in conference play, falling to FAU in three games on their first true road series of the season.
Things weren’t clicking for Rice during a rainy weekend in Boca Raton. The starting pitching wasn’t at it’s best and the hitting remained up and down. The Owls improved in the field, but with the other two phases faltering, it wasn’t enough. Here’s a rundown of the action and three thoughts from the tough weekend.
FRIDAY | FAU 4 – Rice 2
One week removed from earning his first win of the season, Rice ace Matt Canterino had one rough inning which cost him dearly. FAU struck early, putting up four runs on five hits in the opening frame. Canterino would recover quickly, allowing no runs and just two additional hits through the remainder of his six innings of work.
Trailing 4-0, Rice had their chances. They sent the minimum to the plate twice in nine innings. The Owls had runners in scoring position five times but failed to collect any run-scoring hits in those opportunities. A fifth inning double by Andrew Dunlap which followed a Justin Collins single as well as a sixth inning sac fly were the only offense Rice could muster, falling in a close opener on the road.
SATURDAY | FAU 12 – Rice 7
The woes at the plate which plagued Rice on Friday night didn’t seem to carry into their matinee tilt with FAU on Saturday. In fact, Rice struck first. Andrew Dunlap launched a ball over the right field fence, driving in three runs to give the visiting team their first lead of the series. Rodrigo Duluc followed with a sac fly to add to the lead in the same inning.
Up 4-0. Rice was able to hold onto their lead through the first four innings. Then the dam broke. Evan Kravetz couldn’t finish the fifth, walking two and allowing two hits and two runs before he was relieved by Addison Moss with one out. Moss, who up to this point had been viewed as one of the most reliable bullpen options, wasn’t able to close the door.
By the time Kravetz’s runners had been driven in and Moss left the ball game in the sixth, Rice was staring and a 10-5 deficit from which they would never recover.
SUNDAY | FAU 12 – Rice 4
When it rains it pours. Jackson Parthasarathy entered the weekend with a 2.05 ERA and looked as dialed in as ever when the game got under way. Then, with two outs in the first inning, a sharp comebacker bounced off his leg. A double would follow, then a home run. All of a sudden, Rice was down 3-0.
Parthasarathy never settled in. He was lifted after allowing five runs on seven hits in two long innings. Kendall Jeffries came in out of the pen and kept the game within reach as the Rice offense chipped away.
As has been the case, the Owls had their chances, none better than a bases loaded situation in the fifth inning. Andrew Dunlap, who already had a big home run in the series, struck out. Justin Collins hit a hard hit liner, but it went straight to the third baseman to end the inning. Dunlap would push two across with a single in the seventh, but that was the end of Rice’s scoring on the day.
FAU took advantage of rough outings from Jackson Tyner and Blair Lewis to break the game open late, winning 12-4.
TAKEAWAYS | FAU wins series 3-0
1. You’re allowed to have one bad game
That’s a message Matt Bragga has preached all season long. Even the best aren’t immune to off nights from time to time. Mistakes will happen, but once they become a regularity changes have to be made. Rice had a few “one bad games” against FAU.
Canterino wasn’t the sharpest he’s been in his win over Oklahoma, but he found a way to win. It was just one bad inning against FAU, but the lineup behind him was unable to recover. Moss had by far his worst outing of the season.
For the most part, these are guys who have been consistent. The pitching staff has been far from infallible, but Canterino and Moss have been and are supposed to continue being the anchors. They get a pass, but the pressure is going up on each of their next appearances.
2. Double the Dunlap
Andrew Dunlap has locked himself into the core of the Rice line up. The rest of the lineup has been reconfigured around him, but his spot in the middle of the order remains secure. He came through several times this weekend, going 2-for-3 with and RBI on Friday and kicking things off with his three-run home on Saturday. He added a 2-of-4 showing on Sunday with 2RBI.
While Andrew was expected to be a key contributor to the team in 2019. the younger Dunlap, Justin (unrelated), has become a pleasant surprise. The highly touted freshman has forced his way onto the lineup card in recent weeks. His versatility and ability to make contact could keep him there for some time. Justin picked up three hits against FAU, walking five times.
3. It’s a long season
Sports, by their very nature, tend to produce polarizing observations. Few teams or players are penciled in as “average”, most are labeled either exceptional or atrocious. In reality, most teams, Rice included, will tend to settle in somewhere around the middle.
This team has some obvious strengths like the starting pitching. They have some holes, primarily in the bullpen. The roster is a bit lean, and injuries to some of the Owls’ middle of the lineup hitters haven’t helped the cause.
2019 is Matt Bragga’s first season at the helm in Houston and he recognizes this is a marathon, not a sprint. 0-3 is not how this team wanted to start conference play, but there are plenty of games still to be played.
ON DECK | vs Texas A&M (Tues), vs UTSA (Fri-Sun)
- From JUCO to Rice Football: Why Blaze Alldredge’s ascent is just beginning
- Rice Football 2020: Owls in the NFL Week 2 Update
- Conference USA Football 2020: Week 3 C-USA Roundup
- College Football: Odds suggest a bumpy 2020 season