Rice baseball took two of three from Southern, winning their first non-conference series of the season prior to Conference USA action.
THREE FOR THE ROAD | Rice baseball wins series 2-1
1. Rice baseball should have swept Southern
On paper, Rice looked to be the better baseball team entering the weekend. The Owls had the better pitching staff and the better offense. Friday and Saturday proved that expectation to be true. That made Sunday’s loss all the more puzzling.
Yes, it’s baseball, and strange things happen all the time. Winning the series was an absolute must, and that was achieved. But the Owls proved their bench is better than many of their opponents’ regulars. This team shows what it’s capable of achieving, expectations can and should rise.
2. Braden Comeaux is officially Mr. Consistent
Leading Rice with a .352 batting average through 19 games, the senior third baseman has proven to be the most unflappable Owl. When the offense scuttled on Sunday, Comeaux stayed productive, tallying two hits in four at bats and driving in one of the Owls’ four runs. He hit a blistering .500 on the weekend, driving in three.
Rice has found a healthy amount of productive bats this season. Bradley Gneiting has been superb. Antonio Cruz forced his named one the lineup card and has played well of late. Freshman Guy Garibay has showcased tremendous play discipline and lead the team in walks. Rice needs all of them to continue to produce. When they do, Comeaux’s ever-ready swing will amplify their efforts.
3. Building trust on Wood
Dalton Wood has been eased back into the bullpen after missing the 2020 season. He made his fourth appearance on Sunday, entering the game with his team trailing. If Rice was going to have a chance, he needed to be superb, and he was. Wood threw three scoreless innings, maintain a spotless 0.00 ERA while tallying his 10th strikeout of the year.
Wood is the only Rice pitcher to have four consecutive multi-inning scoreless outings this season. He’s been the guy tasked with holding the line when Rice is trailing so far, but his reliability could warrant more crucial innings in the near future. Few Rice relievers have produced to his level and he has the arm to be a special asset for this club.
THE PLAY BY PLAY
FRIDAY | Rice 14 – Southern 2
Rice baseball came out swinging on Friday night, scoring two runs in the first inning and never looking back. The Owls’ offense was as good as it’s been all season, scoring in six of eight innings. Justin Dunlap led the team with four hits. Connor Walsh had one but drove in four.
On the mound, Blake Brogdon was dynamic. He struck out 10 batters in seven innings, allowing two runs and walking one along the way. Staked to an early lead, he was fearless, and for the most part, he avoided significant damage.
SATURDAY | Rice 13 – Southern 4
Saturday brought more of the same. Bradley Gneiting got things started with a solo shot in the first inning. Southern would equalize in the second and keep the game close, briefly. Then Rice exploded for six runs in the fifth inning, including three by way of bases loaded RBI walks.
Elevated from the Sunday spot after Roel Garcia was a scratch, Mitchell Holcomb put together his second consecutive strong performance. He struck out nine in seven innings, allowing just two earned runs. Micah Davis closed the door in the ninth with three-straight strikeouts.
SUNDAY | Southern 6 – Rice 4
Things started off the right way for Rice in the series finale thanks to a first inning RBI double by Braden Comeaux that spotted the Owls’ to a 1-0 lead. It would not last. Starting pitcher Brandon Deskin’s started to spiral in the third inning, allowing four two-out runs to put Rice in an early hole.
Unlike the prior two outings, the bats did not wake up. After clawing back to a 6-4 deficit, Rice managed two hits in the final three innings and left the tying run on base in the ninth.