Rice Formidable As Always – From the Bird’s Nest
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
The third seed Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns are in the state of Texas, where they will face the second seed Rice Owls Friday af….
Oh, you have heard it before.
Hard to believe it’s been five years since Zach Osborne’s masterful performance at the Austin Regional when the Cajuns defeated Rice by the score of 1-0. Rice came back and defeated the Cajuns later in the tournament en route to the regional final against Texas.
Well, here we go again.
Rice (35-20) and Louisiana (39-21) will once again meet in the postseason this Friday at Cougar Field in Houston.
Rice has a string of twenty straight years of 40 or more wins that could be in jeopardy this year after only playing 53 games in the regular season, then going 0-2 in the Conference USA tournament after winning the regular season title, the 19th time in the last 20 years Rice has won its conference.
79 year old Wayne Graham continues as the head coach of the Owls and once again, Rice is pitching rich. The Owls as a staff average more than one strikeout per inning.Jordan Stephens (6-4, 3.12), Kevin McCanna (7-3, 3.05) and lefty Blake Fox (8-2, 3.34) make for an awfully good trio of arms. Matt Dittman (3-3, 10 saves) is nasty out of the bullpen and Austin Orewler and Glenn Otto can be dominating as well. Rice can pitch. What a shock.
Offensively, the Owls will remind you somewhat of South Alabama, but without as much speed. They hit .300 as a team and have eight players hitting .290 or better. But, like the Jaguars, what Rice doesn’t have is a lot of pop. The Owls have hit just 16 homers, although they’ve shown good gap power. Monroe native John Clay Reeves (.324-8-55) is their one true power threat. The Owls don’t run much and don’t bunt a whole lot. But they are contact swingers and they walk their fair share. Just like the Jags, staying away from free baserunners is a key to keeping the score down.
The one thing about Rice that’s out of the ordinary is they really aren’t great at all defensively. A .964 fielding percentage and 76 errors is very un-Rice like. Teams that have beaten them have been able to capitalize on Rice’s mistakes. If a team fails to make Rice pay when they kick the ball around, it usually doesn’t win.
How do you beat them? Really, the same way you beat them in 2010. You keep the score down as best you can. You make them earn what they get. Keeping the score down is something teams have been able to do against the Owls. Scoring against that pitching staff is another story.