Rice baseball is in the midst of their longest winning streak of the year, tacking on a victory in a midweek contest over Sam Houston on Tuesday.
The bats struck early and finished strong as Rice evened the season series with Sam Houston at one game apiece. Rice struck first on a Trei Cruz home run in the first inning and opened things up with a five run second inning, kicked off with a Cade Edwards home run. Gneiting had a double in the frame, his first of two doubles on the night.
Sam Houston would narrow the deficit to 7-5 after the seventh inning, but that’s as close as they would get. Tenacious pitching paired with four runs across the final two innings suppressed any hope of a comeback down the stretch. After losing four of their last five midweek contests, Rice earned a much-needed win over the Bearkats. Here are a few postgame thoughts following the big win.
Loving the long ball
From March 3 to March 26, a span of 16 games, Rice hit nine home runs. They’ve blasted nine long balls in the past week, crushing seven against Old Dominion over the weekend before two more roundtrippers against Sam Houston on Tuesday. The injection of instant offense has had a calming effect on the entire lineup. Players don’t seem to be pressing as much. They’re being patience in the box and the results are encouraging.
Andrew Dunlap has led the way, but Trei Cruz and Cade Edwards broke through against Sam Houston. Multiple guys have proven they have the power to take one out of the ballpark, making the lineup that much more challenging to navigate for opposing pitchers.
Just when some counted them out
Things were looking pretty bleak midway through the Owls’ home series with UTSA less than two weeks ago. Rice had dropped seven consecutive games, starting 0-5 in conference play with an 8-17 record. Words like “rebuild” were being whispered around Reckling Park and the young season was being questioned.
Since then Rice has won five of their last six and four games in a row. They’re 4-5 in conference play and right back in the mix after falling behind early. There are still problems to be fixed and players in need of improvement, but the collective willpower of this team has proven to be undoubtedly tougher than many believed.
It’s not just the winning, it’s how Rice has won these games. Sam Houston beat Rice 10-9 a few weeks ago. Rice punched back with an emphatic 11-5 win. All phases are coming into form at the right time. This team is locked in and the results have been evident.
Take a bow, bullpen
A key piece of the recent success has been the resurgence of the Rice bullpen. They haven’t quite cemented themselves as automatic out-getters yet, but for one of the first times this season it feels like there are multiple options for coach Matt Bragga to call on out of the pen.
Tuesday night starter Kel Bordwine had trouble harnessing his command, giving way to a heavy dose of the pen against Sam Houston State. Jackson Tyner was sharp, striking out four in two innings. Blair Lewis added three K’s after him in two frames. Drake Greenwood had the lone bad outing, failing to record an out while allowing two runs. Garrett Gayle closed the door with three scoreless innings.
Those relievers plus some of the more established guys like Kendal Jeffries and converted starter Jackson Parthasarathy make for a sturdy back end on the mound.