Rice baseball looks to keep their strong conference surge going with a road trip to Western Kentucky. Here’s how the Owls stack up with the Hilltoppers.
Winners of six straight conference games, Rice is playing their best baseball as the calendar turns to May. Next up the Owls hit the road for a three-game stretch with Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers are 4-4 over their last eight games and sit a half game back of Rice (12-9) in conference play with an 11-9-1 record. Both teams need the series win dearly with just a few weeks of conference play remaining before postseason play begins. Here’s what to expect from WKU:
Projected Pitching Matchups
Friday – 3:00 pm: Matt Canterino (6-4, 2.69) vs Reece Calvert (1-2, 5.03)
Friday – 6:30 pm: Evan Kravetz (4-2, 3.69) vs Troy Newell (2-3, 6.95)
Sunday – 1:00 pm: Jackson Parthasarathy (3-6, 4.42) vs Joe Filosa (1-0, 5.64)
The Hilltoppers sport a 6.53 ERA, the worst among all pitching staffs in Conference USA. They’ve been collectively weak from top to bottom. All three hurlers in their weekend rotation have ERAs or 5.00 or worse, so do all but two of the pitchers on their roster who have appeared in at least one game this season.
Relievers Bailey Sutton (3.86 ERA) and Jeff Ciocco (4.86) are the Hilltoppers’ best options out of the pen but both of those pitchers wear a WHIP of 1.540 or worse. Opposing hitters are hitting .300 against WKU with 56 home runs. There isn’t anyone on the mound who will give Rice hitters a real scare over the weekend.
What Western Kentucky might lack on the bump they make up for in the batter’s box and it all starts with centerfielder Jake Sanford. His .859 slugging percentage leads the nation and he ranks inside the top 25 with a .500 on base percentage and a .412 batting average. He’s the heart and soul of the Hilltoppers’ lineup.
Sanford’s supporting cast is dangerous, too. Right fielder Jack Wilson owns a more human-like .427 slugging percentage and is second on the team with 49 hits with 13 doubles. Matt Phipps and Jackson Swinney have 10 doubles apiece. From top to bottom this team is going to make the Rice pitching staff work.