Rice Baseball salvaged a Sunday win against UTSA, snapping a nine-game C-USA losing streak as the back end of the season approaches.
THREE FOR THE ROAD | Rice baseball drops series 2-1
Rice baseball dropped a conference series for the third consecutive weekend, this time falling to UTSA 2–1 at Reckling Park. The Owls pitching staff was worn down throughout the weekend, but the Rice bats were able to answer with some power of their own in a runaway Sunday win. Here are a few takeaways from the weekend.
Rice baseball gave up 36 runs in its three-game series with Texas earlier this season. At the time, that was largely excused as early-season jitters on an opening weekend against a college baseball superpower.
From there, the run totals against the Owls started to dissipate, albeit slowly. Lamar scored 26 runs in three games. Tech scored 20. UAB had 26 runs and FAU pushed across 22. Then UTSA came into Reckling and put up 31 runs, but somehow only managed to win two of the three contests.
UTSA is second in the conference in batting average, third in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging percentage. The Roadrunner bats have been just as lethal elsewhere. But it still stings a bit to give up an average north of 10 runs per game over the course of a weekend, regardless of how good the opponent is thought to be at the time.
2. All together now
Despite the first two one-sided results in favor of the visitors, Rice and UTSA each tallied 34 hits on the weekend with UTSA committing seven fielding errors to the Owls’ six. Part of the reason Rice came up short in the run column was the lack of synergy the lineup produced in the first two games, especially at the top where the bulk of the Owls’ offensive production has been produced so far this season.
On Friday, Jack Riedel and Aaron Smigelski went hitless while Nathan Becker and Austin Bulman managed a single apiece.
On Saturday it was Guy Garibay’s turn to go 0-for-5 from the field. Smigelski, directly behind him in the batting order, went 0-for-4.
It wasn’t until the Sunday finale the Rice bats started firing in unison. Garibay, Bulman, Smigelski and Becker each reached base at least four times. Pierce Gallo followed behind them with a four-hit, four-RBI day.
It’s unrealistic to expect that kind of production from an entire middle of the lineup day in and day out, but even an extra hit here and there would have helped the Owls extend innings and scratch across a few more runs. On Saturday UTSA outhit Rice 14-10 but won by 11 runs. That’s just too big of a gap. The offense left too many runs on the table.
3. Sundays are for closers
Ironically, Rice closer Matthew Linskey has his worst outing of the season, surrendering four runs in his lone inning of work. But it wouldn’t matter in the end, because the Rice lineup had given him a more the sufficient cushion with a crucial assist from a pair of Rice pitchers.
Thomas Burbank and Brandon Deskins held a lineup that had scored 24 runs in the first 18 innings of the series to two runs across seven frames. Honestly, it was stunning, in the most positive of ways. Rice doesn’t win the game without both men hurling tremendous games, allowing the Owls to race out to such a big lead.
On a weekend where good pitching performances were hard to find, that tandem shone bright and gets a well-deserved shout out here.
THE PLAY BY PLAY
FRIDAY | UTSA 9 – Rice 2
UTSA struck early, getting to Rice front liner Cooper Chandler with a four-spot in the second inning before ultimately scratching across two more against him before he left the game, trailing 6-2. Those two Rice runs came courtesy of a Guy Garibay double and would be the only meaningful offensive contribution from the Owls for the remainder of the evening.
The Roadrunners would tack on a few insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings, rendering a productive 3.2 inning relief appearance from Garret Zaskoda too little, too late. UTSA went on to win 9-2
SATURDAY | UTSA 15 – Rice 4
An error-plagued third inning allowed Rice baseball to take a 3-1 lead against UTSA on Saturday, their first lead of the series. It would not last long. UTSA struck back with six runs in the next half inning, driving Rice starter Alex DeLeon from the game after the frame, but not before the damage had been done.
Trailing 7-3, Rice would never get closer. UTSA would score eight more runs as the Rice lineup went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, stranding eight runners as any hopes of a rally dwindled by the inning. And that’s before taking into account a bizarre 45-minute delay to check the hat of pitcher Roel Garcia, which would prove fruitless.
SUNDAY | Rice 16 – UTSA 7
Aiming to avoid a sweep, Rice baseball responded on Sunday with one of their most impressive offensive outings of the entire season. The Owls struck for three in the first inning, adding two more in the third and two more in the fourth. Leading 7-3 after four, it felt like a missed opportunity to have only managed a 9-3 lead entering the eighth inning.
With closer Matthew Linskey on the mound, that didn’t seem to matter, until he allowed an uncharacteristic four runs to put the game very much so back in the balance. Leading 9-7, the offense did the rest. Rice batted around in the eighth, scoring seven runs to put an exclamation point on a long-awaited conference win.