Rice baseball saw unbelievable improvement in the field, cutting down errors and making adjustments as the season progressed.
The 2019 Rice baseball season began with a series win over Rhode Island — and seven errors. The next stretch wouldn’t get any better. The Owls committed 17 errors over their next five games, including a season-high eight miscues in a 16-5 loss to Arizona. There were one or two additional plays in that dismal Arizona defeat which could have been ruled errors as well had the scorekeeper been in a different mood.
It took Rice 11 games before they completed their first error-free contest. Discipline in the field was abysmal and a real detriment to this team’s chances of finding any sustainable success. Fortunately for the Owls, that would represent rock bottom of the defense in 2019.
Rice finished the year with a .965 fielding percentage, ninth best in Conference USA, committing 75 errors in 59 games. As bad as that was, the splits between non-conference play and the Owls final 30 conference games couldn’t have been any more disparate.
The Owls committed 50 errors in their 25 non-conference games, a rate of 2.0 errors per game. Once Rice moved past the bulk of their non-conference games and reached the latter portion of their schedule the defense tightened up considerably. The team committed 25 errors in 30 conference games, the third-fewest in CUSA and a rate of .83 errors per game.
See Also | Season Review: Starting pitching shines
Coach Bragga new his team was capable of cleaning things up, but it’s hard to envision an improvement of that magnitude. Rice capped off their season with a robust .986 fielding percentage in the Conference USA Tournament. That tied Old Dominion for the best fielding rate in the tournament. Rice registered twice as many putouts in their four games (109) compared to Old Dominion’s two (51).
As the season reached a new marker, the defense got better, bordering on great with some web gems from Trei Cruz in the infield and Aaron Beaulaurier in the outfield. The team as a whole had its’ issues, but this was something which could be fixed, and fixed during the season. Going from worst to first in the span of three months, though, that’s nothing short of spectacular.