Rice Baseball took Dallas Baptist to the wire three times but came away winless. More on a tough weekend at Reckling for the Owls.
Rice baseball had their chances to win this series, but fell short. I asked head coach Jose Cruz Jr. for his take on the frustrating weekend and left it unlocked for all to read.
“It killed us”
“This hurts because we’re playing good. We’re desperate for wins. And we’re playing good enough to win, we’re just not getting the end result which stinks,” head coach Jose Cruz Jr. said. “If you tell me that we’re going into the ninth inning with a two-run lead, I’ll take it all day. For whatever reason, it just hasn’t gone our way here of late.”
Rice baseball knew what it was up against when Dallas Baptist came to town this weekend. Even without the impressive 14-game winning streak, which was snapped on Tuesday by TCU, Rice was going to be up against it facing one of the most complete teams in Conference USA and the No. 19 ranked team in the nation.
To win, Rice was going to have to take risks. If not perfect, the Owls were going to have to be pretty darn close. And for most of all three games, it sure looked as if Rice had accomplished just that. Rice led DBU through seven innings in all three games: 4-3 on Friday, 2-1 on Saturday and 3-1 on Sunday.
As if that weren’t enough, entering the weekend, Rice was 13-2 when leading after seven innings, that’s a clip of victories on 87 percent of such occasions. That’s what made this weekend sting all the more, because not only did they come in well below that 87 percent threshold, they were winless.
On Friday and on Sunday, it was the longball that did Rice in. “It killed us,” Cruz said of the DBU home run that put Rice behind. “It’s part of the season, right? It’s part of it. “You get ups and downs and you get a bit of heartbreak and gut punch. And that’s basically what happened this last weekend.”
In an alternate universe, Rice baseball sweeps DBU and we’re talking about a resurgence late in the season. That’s not what happened, and it’s been a downward trend that’s been apparent for a month now. But as Cruz pointed out, the pieces are there. If Rice can hang with DBU they can hang with anyone in C-USA. It’s time to turn that effort into results.
“We played good enough to win at least two games. I mean, we led in the ninth by two runs, twice,” Cruz said. “It’s just a matter of our belief in ourselves to be able to do what needs to get done to win. I think that’s the essence of what we need to do right now is just believe that we can and I think we will.”
FRIDAY | DBU 8 – Rice 6 (12 innings)
It was a race to beat the rain on Friday night and both starting pitchers certainly did their parts. Rice starter Parker Smith threw 5.1 innings with six strikeouts, allowing three runs, two of which came in his final inning of work. DBU’s ace Ryan Johnson was lifted after four innings and Rice pounced quickly, tying the game 3-3 quickly after he left.
From there, Rice tacked on solo runs in the seventh (a Drew Holderbach RBI single) and the eighth (a Guy Garibay home run) to go ahead 5-3 before thunderstorms forced a postponement to Saturday. Upon resumption, DBU tied the game in the ninth with a two-run home run before pouring on three more in the 12th to complete the come-from-behind win.
SATURDAY | DBU 10 – Rice 3
Even though the Owls had used several arms to complete the first game on Saturday afternoon, the pitching staff came through in a big way in the early portions of the evening game. JD McCracken racked up a career-best seven strikeouts and Matthew. Linskey looked much more like his old self, striking out three while allowing one run in two innings.
McCracken and Linskey’s arms combined with two solo home runs from Jack Riedel positioned Rice with a 2-1 lead entering the eighth inning. Five walks, two home runs and a single later, DBU had hung an eight-spot on the Owls and put the game out of reach.
SUNDAY | DBU 4 – Rice 3
DBU struck first in the finale, but Rice was quick to follow. They trailed for a matter of minutes, answer a DBU solo home run in the first inning with three straight two-out hits, capped off by a two-RBI single from Manny Garza. Jack Riedel added some insurance in the third with a sacrifice fly, staking the Owls to a 3-1 lead in the early going.
That lead held for a good while thanks to strong pitching performances from Cristian Cienfuegos, Ryland Urbanczyk and Justin Long. When Long was relieved in the top of the ninth following a lead-off home run from DBU, Rice led 3-2. Once again, the Owls were unable to get those last three outs. Jack Ben-Shoshan was credited with the loss, allowing a walk and a go-ahead home run in relief of Long.
THREE FOR THE ROAD
Rather than a series win, Rice baseball is reckoning with one that got away. Here are three takeaways from a tough weekend at home.
ON DECK | vs Houston (Wed), at UTSA (Fri-Sun)
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