Matt Canterino’s gem was wasted. The Rice baseball bullpen caved again as the Owls fell to Southern Miss at the Conference USA Baseball Tournament.
The formula for Rice advancing in the Conference USA Baseball Tournament was simple: Pitch well and take advantage of opportunities at the plate. Matt Canterino answered the call. The bullpen did not as the Owls fell to 2-Seed Southern Miss 6-4 in 10 innings.
The staff ace, Canterino was every bit as special as the Owls needed him to be. He was sharp as ever through 7.1 innings, striking out nine, walking two and allowing one run on three hits. With the Southern Miss offense confounded, even a slight lead felt commanding.
To that point, the offense had been sturdy. Braden Comeaux reached based on each his first four plate appearances, coming in to score three times. Trei Cruz blasted a two-run dinger in the third. Rice led 4-0 at the seventh inning stretch.
Owls fall by walk-off for the fourth straight game
When Canterino left the game Rice fans held their breath. The bullpen was coming off their worst week of the season. It took guts for Bragga to pull Canterino when he got into the seventh inning jam. While it might have been ideal to ride Canterino as far as he could carry them, he’s already thrown 100 pitches. His availability the rest of the week would have been factored into Bragga’s decision to turn to the pen.
With Garrett Gayle on the mound, Rice coughed up the four run lead including three runs scored in the ninth inning. Rice needed one more out to advance. On multiple tries, they failed to get it. A walk-off home run by Southern Miss slugger Matt Wallner ended any hope of a late rally.
Rice isn’t going to advance without a few big outings from their bullpen. They came close Wendesday, but fell painfully short once again.
UP NEXT | Louisiana Tech – Thursday 9:00 am
Rice will play Louisiana Tech in the loser’s bracket. The Bulldogs dropped their first-round game to Marshall in 12 innings., the longest game (by time) in CUSA Tournament history. Rice swept Louisiana Tech at home earlier this season.
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