Rice baseball snapped out of its funk, overcoming a costly individual relief outing with plenty of runs to earn a meaningful win over Houston
.The whiplash began in the first inning when Jack Riedel slugged a three-run bomb to right center, spotting starting pitcher Garrett Stratton to an early lead. Stratton did his part, twirling two shutout innings before being lifted for Mauricio Rodriguez who did not fair quite as well.
Rodriguez got the first man to fly out, but seven of the next eight Houston hitters reached base, including three two-out RBI hits. When the dust settled, the Cougars led 6-3 and the Owls’ early volly had been answered two-fold.
Last Time Out: Rice Baseball suffers ninth consecutive loss, falls to IWU
Rice quickly answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning courtesy of a Guy Garibay home run. The game stayed close for several innings until the Owls had their moment. In the bottom of the seventh with the game tied, Ben Royo deposited a ball over the left field wall — a three-run blast.
Riedel added three more runs in the eighth via his second long ball of the game. Matthew Linskey, taking over for Garret Zaskoda who worked three shutout frames, struck out the side in the ninth to secure the win.
What it means | Not dead yet
Had Rice baseball lost this game they would have reached their first double-digit game losing streak since 1987. That’s not a marker a program on that seeks to elevate its status would want to emblazon itself with. Winning on Wednesday night was paramount. And for the first time in more than two weeks, Rice got it done.
At some point, the odds said the bullpen roulette was going to favor the blue and gray. At some point, the defense was going to put together an error-less outing. At some point, the relief was going to be good enough. That all happened on Wednesday. Now they’ve got to find a way to replicate it.
The top of the order was superb. Linskey looked like his old self. Someone stepped up and gave the team good innings out of the pen (Zaskoda) and head coach Jose Cruz trusted him enough to let him keep going, an equally important piece of the puzzle.
There are things to build on here. And Rice needs to get a few more wins to secure that conference tournament spot. No better time than the present to turn things around.
ON DECK | at WKU (Fri-Sun)
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