Rice baseball has a mix of new and old faces set to step into the batter’s box at Reckling Park this season. Here are a few names to know at the plate.
Although the pitching staff has received plenty of attention this spring — thanks in part to Rice baseball’s state-of-the-art Pitching Lab — the lineup promises to play an equally important part in the Owls’ success this coming season. And just like the rotation and the bullpen, there’s so much still up in the air as the opening series this weekend against Texas in Austin draws near.
The trio of Cade Edwards, Bradley Gneiting and Braden Comeaux that formed the early third of the Owls’ order for the better part of last season have all moved on. That leaves three important bats to replace right off the top.
There are plenty of candidates among the returning hitters. Guy Garibary showed promises last year, so too did Nathan Becker. Both have the potential to be middle-of-the-lineup type hitters if they continue to progress in their abilities at the plate.
Reliable veteran Austin Bulman seems a likely candidate to hit somewhere near the cleanup spot. Incoming transfers Drew Woodcox (Texas Tech) and Jack Riedel (North Carolina) both look like strong candidates to be everyday players after impressive spring stints thus far, including a four-home run game by Woodcox in late January.
Catcher Justin Long and shortstop Hal Hughes seem probable opening day starters as well. Beyond that, it really could be any number of players that draw at least an at bat here or there in the weeks ahead. JUCO transfer infielder Benjamin Rosengard has flashed a consistent bat this spring. Outfielder Antonio Cruz is playing well. Justin Dunlap could push for swings as could newcomers in the infield Pierce Gallo (Clemson transfer) and freshman Jack Ben-Shosan.
Head coach Jose Cruz Jr. was adamant “the lineup writes itself,” noting the process of pieces together who will hit where and who gets at bats “is relatively easy for us right now” as the team opened spring practices a few weeks ago. Soon it will be time to put those aspirations to paper.
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