Entering Year 2 under head coach Jose Cruz Jr the Rice baseball roster is starting to take shape. Here are a few names to know on the mound.
Rice baseball will look to significantly retool its pitching staff this season. In addition to the hiring of Parker Bangs, a new pitching coach, this offseason, the Owls will also turnover a sizable portion of their staff and likely introduce a host of players to new roles.
From purely an innings-pitched perspective, Rice will have to replace its top five arms from last year’s team. Cooper Chandler, Alex DeLeon, Roel Garcia, Thomas Burbank and Brandon Deskins have moved on, leaving a vacuum of mound time to back fill. That quintet accounted for 251 of 485.2 innings pitched, representing more than 50 percent of the innings worked by the entire 2022 staff.
While they are losing a lot of innings, the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Closer Matthew Linskey, who led the team with a 3.00 ERA last season, returns to the squad and could be stretched out to take advantage of his talents for more than an inning or two per weekend. Also back is Parker Smith, who made a strong case to be higher in the weekend rotation at the end of last season and throughout summer ball.
Blake Brogdon, who has been a weekend rotation guy in prior seasons, is back for his fifth season at South Main. It’ll be interesting to watch how his role plays out as well as a guy like Micah Davis that flashed his talents last year but lacked consistent command. Tom Vincent, Reed Gallant, Cristian Cienfuegos and Garrett Zaskoda return as potential bullpen options.
Added to the Mix
The list of newcomers who will be in the mix is long. Rice added Mauricio Rodriguez from the JUCO ranks as well as Krishna Raj (Charleston Southern, Tulane), Hayden Durke (Louisiana), JD McCracken (Tennessee) and Tyler Hamilton (Texas Tech) from the Transfer Portal. Additionally, they converted Justin Long from catcher to hurler, and word of his development has been very positive throughout the offseason.
More: Expectations rise for Rice Baseball, Cruz Jr. in Year 2
Past that, there’s a strong compliment of freshman arms that will get looks. Head coach Jose Cruz Jr. singled out Ryland Urbanczyk and Garrett Stratton as early standouts at the onset of preseason practices, which would likely make the front runners in that regard. The Owls also added Marco Fuentes, Jake Crews and Tanner Fox in their incoming freshman class.
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