The schedule is strange. Rosters are deep. But more than anything, Rice baseball wants to get back onto the field as soon as they can.
Almost a year removed from an abridged 16-game season, Rice baseball is ready to give it another go. The Owls had barely begun conference play last spring when COVID-19 brought a swift halt to their season. The ripple effects from that strenuous week are still being felt.
The most notable deviation from “normal” will be the 42 players listed on the roster this season. In a typical year, rosters are capped at 35 individuals. Rice will have seven more this season, primarily composed of seniors who believed their last year of college baseball was going to wrap up last summer. Veterans like Braden Comeaux, Cade Edwards and Bradley Gneiting will don pinstripes for one more ride.
Head coach Matt Bragga is excited about the depth, which along with an influx of talent, should help him navigate this team to a better season than last year’s shortened start. But his optimism don’t stop at the walls of Reckling Park. In his estimate, “this should be one of the best years in the history of college baseball.”
The MLB Draft was shortened from 40 rounds to five rounds. Roster limitations have been suspended for the season. Every roster has more talent, more weapons, than they thought they’d have before the pandemic arrived. Now each team will have to make the best of it that they can.
“We’re anxious to get back out,” Bragga said, “I really like this crew. The product continues to get better, as it should.”
The return to action includes a revised schedule with less distanced travel and a few interesting twists. There are less midweek games. When conference play arrives on March 26 they’ll play just one team outside of C-USA.
Conference weekends will look different too. Rather than the standard Friday to Sunday three-game slate, there will be four games played each weekend, with a Saturday doubleheader of seven-inning games injected to increase the chances of playing as many games as possible. Bragga wanted four full nine-inning games but was in the minority
Whether it’s three-game weekends or four, Bragga just wants to get back onto the grass. “I don’t like being judged on 28% of a season,” he said, recalling a disappointing 2020 start. He and the Owls will have their chance in a few short weeks. Opening Day against Arkansas Little Rock is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 19. Stay tuned for future updates on the pitching staff and the lineup.
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