Extra innings weren’t enough for Rice baseball to steal a win away from Texas State in San Marcos on Tuesday night.
The third time wasn’t the charm for Rice against Texas State this season. The Owls dropped the San Marcos leg of the three-game season series, following a 1-0 defeat at the Shriner’s College Classic and a 5-0 loss at Reckling Park.
Texas State opened the scoring on a sac fly following a Trei Cruz fielding error in the first. The home team would break things open further with a four-run fourth inning, highlighted by a two run blast to left field by Chase Evans.
Trailing 5-0 on the road, Rice fought back. The Owls outscored the Bobcats 6-1 over the next four frames, tying the game at 6-6 entering the ninth inning. Texas State would go on to win in extras on a two-out RBI single by cleanup hitter Jaylen Hubbard. Here are three big picture takeaways from the loss.
The bullpen struggles don’t stem from lack of trying
Rice has all but run out of reliable bullpen pieces. Kendall Jeffries and Garrett Gayle can’t throw every night, so head coach Matt Bragga chose Tuesday to test out a few lesser used arms. That decision came with high risk and might have been the Owls’ undoing in the end.
Blake Brogdon, Brandon Deskins and Benjamin Content have thrown 14 innings between them this season, combined. All three of them were called to pitch and each of them had their struggles. That trio would ultimately account for five of the six earned runs allowed, four walks and three of the four extra base hits allowed.
It would be short-sighted to pin this loss solely on any of those three guys. Brogdon, who will sport the official L on his stat sheet, had 1.1 innings under his belt this season prior to coming in to relief starter Kel Bordwine. Rice was out of options so they rolled the dice. Some of their other bullpen pieces still have so work to do.
Rice might have found a centerfielder
Aaron Beaulaurier has a strong argument to be made as the top defender on this roster. His problems have come at the plate where he’s hitting a ghastly .148. His at bats haven’t looked particularly encouraging, so finding someone else to man center and hit at the back end of the order has become a necessity.
Dominic Cox doesn’t have the same caliber of instincts as Beaulaurier in the field, but he’s been solid and is hitting better of late than he has all season. His four hits in the past three games match his season total in the Owls’ previous 23 contests. If he can prove he can maintain this kind of production he’ll be able to claim the spot for good.
Fielding lapses not in the rearview mirror yet
Headed into the ninth inning against UTSA on Sunday Rice had committed no errors in the three game series. Braden Comeaux misplayed a ball in the ninth inning, snapping the opportunity for the first error-free weekend of the season. Rather than bouncing back, Tuesday was worse. Rice committed four errors, starting with a run-producing gaffe by Trei Cruz in the first inning.
Now that we know what this team is capable in the field they’re going to be held to a higher standard.