Rice Baseball fell to Dallas Baptist in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament on Wednesday by a final score of 13-2.
Parker Smith walking off the mound with no outs in the fourth inning was not part of the script Rice baseball was hoping to see in their return to the postseason. The Owls — who hadn’t played in a Conference USA Tournament game since 2019 — had high hopes after watching lower seeds win each of the first two games on Wednesday morning. Those dreams met an abrupt ending.
“It’s not how we drew it up. They set the tone early. We had some opportunities to make some plays and we did not,” head coach Jose Cruz Jr said. “That’s how baseball goes sometimes. Unfortunately, it was here at the conference tournament.”
Dallas Baptist struck for three in the first after a full-count walk and a bunt single that left nobody covering first base put the first two runners on. Back-to-back RBI singles spotted the No. 1 seed Patriots to a 3-0 lead. Rice clawed back with a run in the second and the third innings, punctuated by a booming long ball from Connor Walsh to get the Owls back within one.
From there, the route was on. Dallas Baptist scored three in the third and four in the fourth, the latter including a three-run home run that drove Smith from the game. It was at that point Rice opted to save their higher-leverage bullpen arms and play for tomorrow.
“Everybody’s hot. The whole bullpen is hot. Everybody’s on red alert immediately,” Cruz said. “Hopefully, JD [McCracken] comes out and performs and gets us deep into the game. I like our chances if that happens.”
Rice baseball will play the loser of Wednesday’s nightcap between Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic. If the Owls prevail they’ll live to fight another day. If they don’t, they’ll be watching the remainder of the tournament from the stands.
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