The problem hadn’t been that Rice batters weren’t making contact when they swung, it’s just that the contact they were making tended to direct itself straight to the glove of a defensive player. Finally, the ball went where the gloves weren’t, and by the end of the game the 15 runs and 15 hits were good for evening the series with Southeastern Louisiana.
“Tension is what defeats you,” said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. “When you’re relaxed, you have a chance. It’s a game of percentages If you keep doing what you know will work, the percentages will fall in your favor.”
This mathematical faith in the game did pay off for the Owls. After a first inning that saw SLU and Rice swap a pair of runs, Rice scored two in the second, four in the third, and a six run flourish in the fourth to put things away.
By the end of this offensive outburst, SLU starter Kade Granier was chased after two innings and giving up seven earned runs. The Owls had five hitters record multiple hits, with freshman second baseman Brad Gneiting and junior center fielder Ryan Chandler getting three hits each.
“That’s the way baseball works sometimes,” said Graham. “It’s not about the hitting. We’ve been walking far too many people. We took the kid yesterday [SLU’s Mac Sceroler] who is supposed to be the best pitcher in that league, and we scored four runs in six innings. But we walked 11 and hit one. You can’t beat people doing that. Can’t beat anybody doing that.”
As luck would have it for the Owls, the day that the hits started falling, their pitching experienced a slight course correction. Starter Ricardo Salinas went 5.2 innings, struck out a season high seven batters and issuing only three walks. Relievers Roel Garcia, Willy Amador, and Nick Silber went the rest of the, combining to strike out four and only walking four.
“I think he’ll find himself,” said Graham of Salinas. “He knows how to pitch. His control in his first two games has come and gone, but he tends to get better as we go. He’s a quality pitcher, and he’ll be fine.”
The overall Rice performance was welcome, but not viewed by Graham as inherently surprising.
“Baseball is a game that if you finally just relax and realize that if you do the things you know will work, you won’t be troubled by karma or whatever you want to call it. You’re gonna hit balls at people, but if you keep hitting them, they’re not going to be at people.”