Rice Baseball wrapped up their final homestand of the 2022 season with a whimper, falling in three straight games to Middle Tennessee at Reckling Park.
THREE FOR THE ROAD | Rice baseball loses the series 3-0
The final home series of the 2022 Rice Baseball season ended with a thud. Not only were the Owls officially eliminated from any sort of postseason appearance, they were outscored 33 to 11 in the three-game slate. The sweep is the Owls’ fifth of conference play. Rice is now 13-37 overall and 6-21 in conference play. Here are a few takeaways from the weekend.
1. The Seniors
Sunday was Senior Day for Rice Baseball. Pregame festivities included jersey presentations and a formal thanks in front of the crowd at Reckling Park. This class features several players who have become mainstays for the Owls in recent seasons.
Austin Bulman, Alex DeLeon and Brandon Deskins each made their marks at Reckling Park. Bulman has been one of the most productive bats in the Rice lineup over the past three seasons. DeLeon has worked as a Friday Night starter, bullpen option and everything in between. Deskins became one of the more reliable options out of the pen, becoming a frequently used reliever during his time at Rice.
Last Time Out: Rice baseball swept by explosive ULL offense in midweek duet
Roel Garcia, Thomas Burbank, Jonny Hoyle, Justin Dunlap, Dalton Wood, Drake Greenwood and Antonio Cruz were also honored.
2. The Future
After reflecting on the contributions of the seniors, head Coach Jose Cruz Jr. did express his excitement for the young core of players who saw meaningful experience on the diamond this year. Guys like Aaron Smigelski, Guy Garibay and Nathan Becker proved they’d be key pieces of this team moving forward. Garibay and Becker each collected hits in each of their starts on the weekend.
Catcher Manny Garza, who missed the middle portion of the season, went 3-for-5 on Saturday and 2-for-4 on Sunday, driving in four runs across those two games.
Cruz Jr. hopes the same will be true on the mound. Mark Perkins battled through two innings early before the wheels fell off on Sunday. Matthew Linskey through three innings on Saturday, allowing one earned run while facing 12 batters.
3. Four more
There will be much more to be said about the season as a whole in the weeks and months ahead. For now, Cruz Jr. hasn’t turned the page just yet. Regarding their midweek game against Houston and final C-USA series against FIU, Cruz said “I try to win every game I play. I’m still expecting them to go out and give me high effort and get out there and try to win a ballgame.”
By virtue of their losses this weekend, Rice baseball will officially fail to qualify for the Conference USA Tournament. Even given the understandably lowered expectations entering this season, to fall this far in the conference standings can only be viewed as a disappointment.
THE PLAY BY PLAY
FRIDAY | MTSU 7 – Rice 0
For the second consecutive Friday night, Rice baseball was shut out by their opponent. This time around they were overpowered by Middle Tennessee starter Peyton Wigginton, who threw a complete game, striking out 10 batters and allowing just two hits and three walks. He kept the Owls off balance from start to finish.
On the mound, the two-man tandem of David Shaw and Alex DeLeon did what they could to limit the Blue Raiders’ bats. DeLeon entered in the fifth inning and held MTSU to three runs on five hits, but he did not get the support he needed from his offense to make the game competitive down the stretch.
SATURDAY | MTSU 5 – Rice 4 (10)
Manny Garza opened up the scoring with a single that drove in Pierce Gallo in the bottom of the second inning. The Rice lead would not last long. Middle Tennessee answered immediately with three runs in the third and one more in the sixth, taking a 4-1 lead into the ninth inning.
For the second day, Rice struggled to get productive at bats against MTSU’s starting pitcher. This time, though, they were able to do some damage against their bullpen. Rice scored three in the ninth inning, two from a Jack Riedel home run, to force extra innings. Matthew Linskey would be charged with the loss allowing one run in the 10th in his third inning of relief.
SUNDAY | MTSU 21 – Rice 7
All smiles that lingered from Senior Day festivities were quickly put away in the Sunday finale as the Middle Tennessee bats went to work. The visitors scored one run in the first, two in the second and 11 in the third. Starter Mark Perkins was driven from the game in the third but Thomas Burbank did little to stifle the Blue Raiders’ attack, ceding to Garrett Zaskoda before the inning was over.
Trailing 14-0, Rice got its first hit of the game in the bottom of the third. Two runs that inning wouldn’t be nearly enough to stem the onslaught. MTSU would go on to hang 21 runs on Rice, taking the game and the series in landslide fashion.
ON DECK | vs Houston (Tues), vs FIU (Thr-Sat)
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