Rice baseball pushed No. 2 Texas Tech to the wire on multiple occasions but left Lubbock without a win. More on the good and bad from the wild weekend.
THREE FOR THE ROAD | Texas Tech wins series 3-0
1. The starting pitching is gradually getting better
Texas Tech scored in droves over the weekend, but the Rice bullpen was the primary victim of the rain of runs. Starters Alex DeLeon (5 IP, 3 ER), Blake Brogdon (3.2 IP, 1 ER) and Drake Greenwood (5 IP, 2 ER) were able to battle and keep the potent Texas Tech offense at bay.
It wasn’t all positive. Although all of the Owls starting pitchers surrendered less than three earned runs, none made it through the sixth inning, the bar necessary to earn a quality start. A quality start isn’t a perfect measure of a pitcher’s mettle, but the toll exacted on the bullpen from the starter’s short outings couldn’t have been any more apparent after Texas Tech exploded at the end of games. 21 of their 33 runs were scored in the sixth inning or later.
2. Top-heavy lineup
Rice jumped out to a multi-run lead in two of the three games in this series. Given the Owls’ propensity to play from behind, a cushion for the starting pitching was an encouraging sign. The chief contributor for the early success was the top bats in the Rice lineup showing up in big ways.
The usual cast of characters — Braden Comeaux, Bradley Gneiting, Trei Cruz, Austin Bulman and Cade Edwards — gave the Texas Tech pitching staff fits. The bottom half of the order was an entirely different story. Justin Collins had a few hits, but struck out eight times. Aaron Beaulaurier and Antonio Cruz went 0-fer at the dish for the weekend.
On Saturday, Rice exhibited how dangerous this lineup can be when the top hitters are in a groove. The difference in the game, though, was the ability to score runs from the back half of the lineup. Rice 6-7-8-9 hitters had one combined RBI. The same portion of the Texas Tech lineup had 14 RBI.
3. Not yet five units strong
Before the season began, Rice skipper Matt Bragga said the team needed to be five units strong. That meant consistent pitching, Hitting and defense (catching, infield and outfield). Rice has had flashes of greatness in all three levels, but the defense has been the only facet this team can rely on with any level of dependability.
The defense has had blips here and there, but those units looks night-and-day different from where they started in 2019. The bats seem to be inching in the right direction; Rice has scored five or more runs three times since Feb. 28 after topping out a four runs in their 0-7 start.
Individual pitchers have had solid outings, but collectively they’ve struggled. Rice has held an opponent to fewer than four runs twice (not counting sunday) in 15 tries. That’s not going to cut it, especially when the offense isn’t able to consistently put up crooked numbers.
THE PLAY BY PLAY
FRIDAY | Texas Tech 7 – Rice 1
Rice baseball fell behind early on Friday night against Texas Tech and was unable to battle back. The one-two punch of Clayton Beeter and Micah Dallas completely flummoxed the Owls, who struck out a season-high 17 times. It’s hard to mount any sort of rally when punchouts outnumber hits (Rice had six) by nearly three to one.
Even with the lack of production at the plate, Rice kept things within striking distance until starter Alex DeLeon left the ballgame. Freshman Matthew Santos came in and threw 1+ inning, walking three and allowing four runs. A 4-1 deficit became a 7-1 deficit, a score which held for the final two frames.
SATURDAY | Texas Tech 19 – Rice 12
Through two and a half innings, Rice led the No. 2 team in the nation 7-1. Blake Brogdon had worked through some trouble on the bases, but kept Texas Tech limited at the plate. Control issues and a rising pitch count forced Rice to go to the bullpen, opting for Cristian Cienfuegos in the fourth inning.
Cienfuegos had been one of the Owls’ more dependable bullpen pieces, but wasn’t able to do anything against the Red Raider lineup. He was tattooed for nine runs (eight earned) in two innings. Josh Larzabal and Johnny Hoyle, who followed Cienfuegos, were equally scarred. The Rice offense tied a season-high with 12 runs, but couldn’t keep pace with the home team.
SUNDAY | Texas Tech 7 – Rice 6 (11 inn)
Things started out on the right for the Owls in the series finale. Rice struck for four runs in the first inning despite only recording one hit. Texas Tech starter Austin Becker walked the bases full setting up a 2 RBI double by Rodrigo Duluc. Up big early for the second day in a row, all the Owls had to do was hold on.
Both teams had scary moments, loading the bases in the later innings with the chance to push the game to one extreme or the other. The differentiator was a bases loaded walk by Justin Collins and a deftly induced double play ball by Branden Deskins. Everything finally came together to help Rice salvage a much-needed marquee win.