Rice baseball salvaged one road win against Old Dominion but suffered another tough series loss against a conference foe.
THREE FOR THE ROAD | Rice baseball loses series 3-1
1. Wasted opportunity
Rice baseball had ample opportunity this weekend against Old Dominion. A split against a ranked squad was well within reach. And had the Owls managed a bit more luck, this series was winnable. Instead, they leave Norfolk 1-3. But the opportunities were there.
Rice went 8-for-35 (.229) with runners in scoring position during the four-game series. Take out a .500 outing (5-for-10) in their lone win and the Owls managed to hit 3-for-25 (.120) with runners in scoring position in the remaining games. That’s abysmal. No matter how good the pitching, you’re not going to win many series if you can’t drive in runs. Saturday night was proof this team can do it. But until they can repeat the feat, it’s going to be a tall order against teams of this caliber.
2. Insanity avoided
Everyone has heard the definition of insanity. If nothing else, the Owls avoided repeating the same bullpen usage and lineups after they clearly weren’t getting the job done through two games. Micah Davis then Guy Garibay tag-teamed the Saturday afternoon game. Matthew Linskey got the Sunday start with Blake Brogdon following him.
At the plate, Will Karp was inserted at catcher. Freshman Nathan Becker started at DH. Ben Dukes got another shot in the outfield. Is jumbling the lineup a sure-fire fix for the long term? No. But something needed to change on Saturday evening. Thankfully, it did.
3. Where does Rice baseball go from here?
The good news, sobering after two successive underwhelming weekends, is the road ahead. Rice baseball just played two of the best four teams in the conference. The schedule eases up from this point forward.
The Owls play two more road series, but both come against other teams currently below .500 in Conference USA play. They’ll face West Division leader Louisiana Tech and East Division leader Charlotte, but take on both at Reckling Park. It’s not an easy road ahead, but it’s more manageable than where this team has been in the past two weeks.
THE PLAY BY PLAY
FRIDAY | Old Dominion 11 – Rice 4
Roel Garcia made his first Friday night start of the season. Rice needed a bit outing from their ace, but settled for a solid start spoiled by some trouble in the middle innings. Garcia allows a pair of homers, falling behind 4-0 after four innings. The offense rallied to tie the score in the top of the sixth, stringing together a series of big hits including an RBI triple by Hal Hughes.
Garcia would be asked to return for the bottom of the frame, but ran into trouble and was lifted with two runs in and one out recorded. Garrett Zaskoda and Dalton Wood were unable to keep Rice close, allowing an additional five runs in the final two innings, resulting in a one-sided final score.
SATURDAY 1 | Old Dominion 11 – Rice 2
Things started on the wrong foot for Rice on Saturday and went downhill fast. Starter Mitchell Holcomb was relieved in the fourth inning after already surrendering three home runs, including a two-run shot that put Old Dominion ahead 7-1. Reed Gallant was unable to ease the pain, giving up an additional three runs in the fourth before being lifted himself.
From that point, the Owls had no answer. The Owls were able to get traffic on the bases in the sixth and seventh innings, but left the bases loaded in each instance. A big hit or two could have made things closer, but it never came.
SATURDAY 2 | Rice 11 – Old Dominion 2
The third game proved to be a crucial one for Rice. After being blasted in successive games, it was a now or never moment. Becker delivered the first dose of hope with a two-run home run in the second. Fellow newcomer Garibay held his own on the mound, allowing just two runs in 4.1 innings before ceding to Brandon Deskins to slam the door.
Rice entered the seventh with a 5-2 lead but left nothing to chance. They struck for six runs in the final inning, loading the bases and collecting hit after hit. The crooked number was more than enough to snap the Owls’ losing streak and breath some life into the roster.
SUNDAY | Old Dominion 4 – Rice 1
Head coach Matt Bragga handed the ball to Linskey first on Sunday rather than usual starter Brogdon, who quickly came on in relief after some accuracy issues from Linskey. Brogdon did allow one inherited runner to scare, but was otherwise strong in a 6.2 inning relief appearance. He was charged with two earned runs, which was unfortunately more than the Rice bats would score in the game.
A fielder’s choice in the second inning would score the only run of the game for the Owls. Rice wouldn’t get another runner to third base, going three-up-and-three-down twice in the final seven innings.
ON DECK | UTSA (Fri-Sun, four games).
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- The Roost Podcast | Ep 83 – Realignment and Rice Football with Shehan Jeyarajah
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- Rice Baseball: 2021 MiLB Owls mid-July update