Rice baseball dropped three of four games in their opening series of Conference USA play. The Owls were outscored by UTSA 39-18.
THREE FOR THE ROAD | Rice baseball loses series 3-1
1. When things go wrong, they go really, really wrong
Rice baseball sits at .500 on the season with 12 wins and 12 losses. Of the Owls’ 12 defeats, seven of them have come by four or more runs. Rice has allowed double-digit runs in a loss three times this season with all three instances occurring in the last two weeks.
It’s one thing to lose games. Even the best teams in the country will end the regular season with imperfect records. But to be blown out, failing to mount a rally at the plate or put out the fire on the mound, is concerning.
Whether it’s a leader that needs to rise to the occasion or a mechanical issue that needs to be worked out, losing like that multiple times in a short span is disheartening. Especially set alongside Tuesday’s encouraging win over Texas A&M.
2. Hats off to Holcomb
Through his first four outings, it looked like Mitchell Holcomb was not long for the Rice rotation. The transfer pitcher lasted more than four innings just once and fell behind. Then he went 7.2 scoreless against Norther Illinois and seven more innings of two-run ball against Southern.
His four-run, five-strikeout performance against UTSA might have just been okay, but in context, he and Roel Garcia were the only Rice starters that kept their team in games. With four-game weekends the new norm, Holcomb’s name isn’t leaving the lineup card any time soon.
3. Measuring stick series
Rice baseball picked to finish third in Conference USA West in the preseason. UTSA was picked to finish fifth. The Owls entered the weekend with the worst non-conference record of any team in the west, but seemed to be on the upswing over the last two weeks. That momentum came to a screeching halt this weekend.
Other than the miraculous walk off, Rice was outplayed in both phases this weekend. It’s hard to ascribe top-three divisional status to the Owls right now. Fortunately, they have time and they have another four-game weekend against this same UTSA team in a month. We’ll see whether or not Rice can regain their contender status by then.
THE PLAY BY PLAY
FRIDAY | UTSA 16 – Rice 4 (7 inn.)
The potent UTSA offense came out firing, with two home runs accounting for five runs in the first inning of the series opener. Down 5-0, Rice deserves some credit for their response. The Owls slugged two home runs of their own in the bottom half of the first inning, cutting the deficit to 5-4.
Starter Blake Brogdon didn’t fare any better in the second inning. Christian Cienfuegos was rocked in the frame that followed. By the time the fourth inning was over, Rice trailed 16-4. The Owls’ managed 10 hits, but were run-ruled.
SATURDAY 1 | Rice 10 – UTSA 8 (7 inn.)
It was Rice who struck first in the second game, taking a 2-0 lead on a Guy Garibay long ball. Roel Garcia pitched four innings, leaving with a 3-2 lead. The tandem of Dalton Wood and Reed Gallant could not hold the lead. UTSA would rally back in the middle innings, taking a 5-3 which they extended to 8-3 in the top of the seventh.
Rice needed five to tie. Following a groundout by Braden Comeaux to start the inning, the Owls’ bats caught fire. Down to their final two outs, Austin Bulman delivered a three-run bomb to cut the deficit to two. Then, with two outs and the game on the line, Cade Edwards blasted the walk off home run.
SATURDAY 2 | UTSA 4 – Rice 1 (7 inn.)
UTSA scratched across two runs in the first in what was as close to a pitcher’s duel as these teams would see this weekend. Rice managed just two hits in the seven inning affair, including a Comeaux single that scored the Owls’ only run in the sixth.
Rice starter Mitchell Holcomb pitched a complete game, but his workmanlike effort was not enough to spark a Rice offense that seemed to have utilized all its magic in the furious comeback hours prior.
SUNDAY | UTSA 11 – Rice 3
Seeking a series split, Rice was greeted with a crooked number out of the gate. Another first inning home run from UTSA put Rice in an early hole. But the Owls would rally, cutting the deficit to 4-3 in the second inning. But starter Brandon Deskins couldn’t keep the bats at bay for much longer.
UTSA exploded for five more runs in the fourth and added two more against Drake Greenwood in the sixth. Overcome a massive gap again proved to large of a task. Rice did not score for the remainder of the game. The Owls were outscored on the weekend 39 to 18 in 30 innings.
ON DECK | Middle Tennessee (Thr-Sat, four games).
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