Rice baseball followed up a Friday night offensive explosion with a pair of Saturday losses, ruining brief hopes of another road series win.
What could have been a reassuring weekend ended in frustration as Rice dropped another Saturday doubleheader after a Matt Canterino Friday night win. The loss drops the Owls’ record to 15-23 with the heart of conference play still ahead of them. Here’s how each game went and a few closing thoughts on another disappointing series.
FRIDAY | Rice 19 – Charlotte 4
Things couldn’t have gotten off to much of a better start for Rice in the series opener. After both teams were held scoreless in the first inning, Rice exploded for 10 runs in the second on two grand slams, the first from Justin Collins and the next by Andrew Dunlap.
Staked to a more than comfortable lead, Matt Canterino maneuvered through six innings before turning things over to Dalton Wood and Drake Greenwood. It wasn’t the sharpest Canterino has been this season (two strikeouts, one walk, and four earned runs), but it was more than enough for his third straight win.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON | Charlotte 6 – Rice 5
The first end of the double header was headlined by the pitching staffs. Evan Kravetz got the start for the Owls and threw seven innings, allowing one earned run and striking out eight. Charlotte fought back, taking a 3-1 lead in the fifth.
Rice would recapture the lead in the eighth on a Cade Edwards triple, eventually setting the Owls up with a 5-4 advantage entering the ninth inning. Things start out innocently enough with a ground out to third base. Charlotte would then load the bases, and then, with two outs, the 49ers came through with a game-winning walk-off single up the middle.
SATURDAY NIGHT| Charlotte 4 – Rice 0
Jackson Parthasarathy did enough on the mound in the series finale to give his team a chance to win. The Owls’ last piece in the starting rotation threw 5.1 innings, striking out 11 batters and allowing three earned runs, one each in the first, fourth and sixth innings. That first run would prove to be the game-winner, though, as Rice was shut out on three hits a little more than 24 hours removed from a 19-run shellacking of this same squad on Friday night.
Rice had their chance to spark a rally in the ninth, getting their first two base runners on with no outs. Two strikeouts and a groundout would extinguish the threat and end the series in favor of the home team.
TAKEAWAYS | Charlotte wins series 2-1
1. Are the double-headers too much?
The Rice offense has come prepared for their last two series openers. The Owls scored eight against FIU on Friday night and followed it up with 19 in the opener against Charlotte. Matt Canterino pitched both of those games, and although he wasn’t perfect, he was more than effective enough to give Rice plenty of cushion on the scoreboard.
Then the doubleheaders happened. Rice scored nine in two Saturday against FIU, one more than their Friday night tally. The Owls were held to five one day after their 19-run outburst against Charlotte. As the series have drawn on, the focus at the plate has waned. It didn’t even seem like the same team that showed up to the ballpark on Friday and Saturday.
2. Not good enough to be unlucky
Rice was one out away from winning this series. Then a single in the first game of the Saturday doubleheader evaporated what could have been a 2-0 series lead. Even with a loss in the finale, a 2-1 finish would have lifted Rice to .500 in conference play. Instead, they sit at 6-8.
Three errors by Rice gave Charlotte the chance for a game-winning hit on Saturday afternoon. Then Charlotte first baseman Dominick Cammarata punched ball up the middle. A little bit further to either side and it’s an out, but Cammarata’s ball found the hole and Charlotte won.
Right now, Rice needs a little bit of luck. They haven’t been consistent enough to overcome bad bounces. Mistakes are magnified when the margin for error is thin. This time, it cost Rice the series.
3. This team needs Evan Kravetz and Jackson Parthasarathy more than ever
Rice has lost both the final two games of each of the last two series, but it hasn’t been due to a lack of capable pitching. Kravetz had one poor outing, allowing six runs through 4.2 innings, but the Owls would still go on to score seven in a losing effort. The rest have all been strong starts which went unrewarded.
Canterino and Addison Moss were billed as the Owls’ 1-2 all offseason. Injuries have largely kept Moss out of the rotation, but Kravetz and Parthasarathy have more than answered the call. When they’re on the mound Rice typically has a chance to win. Otherwise, Rice could have been trailing 9-0 on Sunday instead of 4-0. If those two had been worse, Rice would be starting at a sub-.500 CUSA record with little to no reason for hope.
Rice can pitch, and pitch with the best of them. It’s going to make more than that alone to climb back to the upper half of the conference standings, but it’s one thing Rice does have going for them.