Rice Baseball concluded a short stint at the Conference USA Tournament on Thursday, eliminated by FAU by the final score of 6-1.
JD McCracken and Parker Smith were essentially the only bonafide starting pitchers Rice baseball had at its disposal entering the Conference USA Tournament. If they were going to go on any sort of run, getting quality innings from both was absolutely essential.
When Smith left the mound on Wednesday after allowing 10 runs in 3+ innings, McCracken’s 6-run effort in Thursday’s do-or-die game was the nail in the coffin. To McCracken’s credit, it didn’t look like he would last through the second, but he wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam to earn himself a few more innings before the Owls’ 2023 season reached its unsatisfying conclusion.
The pitching woes were magnified by another quiet day from the bats. Pierce Gallo collected the Owls’ only hit in the first five innings, reaching second after an error but failing to score. He would be the last Owl to reach scoring position until the sixth, but that effort was scuttled by a double play.
Rice would scratch across a single run in the ninth inning. Guy Garibay drove in Manny Garzza, who doubled to get in scoring position. It wouldn’t be enough to get the Owls back in the game.
“[We] definitely did not play our best here these last two games,” head coach Jose Cruz Jr. said in the aftermath. “We got here, but still I’m not very satisfied about it. Obviously, we have some work to do.”
Rice baseball ends the season 21-37, winless in its first Conference USA Tournament games since 2019. With the conclusion of the season, the Owls bid adieu to the conference and will make the transition to the American official later this summer.
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