Rice swept by UC Irvine, falls to 2-6
Ever since beginning the Matt Bragga era with a series win over the University of Rhode Island, it’s been all downhill for Rice baseball. The Owls lost all five games they played last week, including a sweep by the University of California, Irvine. With the losses, Rice fell to 2-6 on the season, the worst winning percentage in all of Conference USA.
After Rice lost its two midweek games by a combined 18 runs at the hands of the University of Texas and the University of Arizona, freshman outfielder Antonio Cruz hit his first collegiate home run in Friday night’s game against UCI. Cruz homered to left field after being down in the count 0-2 to give Rice a 3-2 lead, their first lead since the previous Sunday against URI. However, junior starting pitcher Matt Canterino gave up a two-run home run in the top of the third inning to allow the Anteaters to retake the advantage. Rice never regained the lead and finished the game with an 11-5 loss.
The Owls struck out 17 times at the plate during Friday’s loss, which Bragga said was a major reason for the defeat.
“It’s hard to win a game when you strike out 17 times,” Bragga said. “Nolan Ryan shouldn’t strike anyone out 17 times.”
The Owls went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Friday against the Anteaters and committed three errors. Those three errors gave the Owls a combined 11 errors in the span of two games, after the Owls racked up eight errors in last Wednesday’s 16-5 loss to the University of Arizona at Reckling Park.
Despite losing by six runs on Friday, there were some bright spots for the Owls, according to Bragga. Bragga said he was pleased that junior outfielder Bradley Gneiting was 2-for-4 at the plate. He said he was also impressed by senior pitcher Jackson Tyner, who gave up zero runs in just over two innings of work.
Senior pitcher Evan Kravetz took the mound to start Saturday’s game against UCI as the Owls looked to end their three game losing skid. Unfortunately for Rice, the Anteaters hit two home runs in the third inning to open up a 3-0 lead, forcing the Owls to play from behind again. The Anteaters continued to build on that lead while silencing the Rice offense for the remainder of the game, shutting out Rice 7-0 to hand the Owls their fourth consecutive defeat.
Rice was unsuccessful again on Sunday in its efforts to end the losing streak. Senior pitcher Jackson Parthasarathy started on the mound and received little help from his defense. He allowed only two earned runs in his four innings of work, but two unearned runs scored thanks to defensive lapses. The same storyline continued for junior pitcher Addison Moss, who relieved Parthasarathy. The Anteaters extended their lead to eight, with Moss allowing four runs, all unearned.
Rice was not shut out like it was in the previous game, but the Owls could only muster four runs, all of which came in the sixth inning. It would not be nearly sufficient to complete the comeback as the Owls fell to the Anteaters by a final score of 11-4.
On Wednesday, Rice will look to turn its season around in a game against a Prairie View A&M University team that is 1-5 on the year entering Tuesday, Feb. 26.
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On Monday, ESPN (somewhat prematurely) released the bracket for the 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Like many of you readers, I was shocked to see that Rice was a No. 12 seed.