The Blazers (11-18, 3-6) are currently on a 3-game losing streak, having lost all three games by just one run. That can be very frustrating for a team and a fan base, but it also shows that this team has the ability to compete, and they’ll need to compete at their best this weekend as they travel to take on Rice (18-10, 7-2).
The Owls have won nine of their last 10 games, including a midweek win over number six Texas A&M on Tuesday. They are playing the best baseball in the conference right now, and are possibly one of the hottest teams in the country.
With that, UAB has a chance to pick up a lot of confidence and momentum this weekend as they try and take down the Owls.
Rice is 10th in the conference with a team average of .246, and they average just over 4 runs a game. With UAB’s pitching staff, which ranks third in the conference with a 3.31 ERA, the Owls won’t be running away with any of these games.
However, Rice is second in the conference in pitching with an ERA of 3.06, while UAB is last in the conference in hitting with a team average of .228, and putting up 4.25 runs per game. Based on those stats we should see a very low scoring series, which gives the Blazers a chance.
Ryan Chandler leads the Owls with a .330 average, while Charlie Warren is behind him at .319. Ford Proctor is their other hitter batting over .300 as the offense is really spread around.
The pitching staff is where Rice excels – as they always have. Jon Duplantier is possibly the best draft prospect in the conference, and after a slow start he’s picked it up as of late to the tune of a 2.55 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 49.1 innings pitched. Blake Fox files in behind him with a 2.58 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 45.1 innings.
Glenn Otto is the team’s closer with 5 saves and a 1.64 ERA to go along with 42 strikeouts in 33 innings – all out of the bullpen. They have five more arms out of the bullpen with at least 6 innings pitched and an ERA of 3.86 or lower.
Coach Shoop is going to have to get creative to find a way to put up runs against that pitching staff. Griffin Gum continues to lead UAB in hitting with a .317 average. He is the only hitter in the lineup currently hitting over .300. Brewer Hicklen leads the team with 22 runs scored and 3 home runs to go along with a .279 average. Carter Pharis is hitting .273 and leads the team with 19 RBIs.
Esteban Tresgallo has started to heat up at the plate as well for the Blazers after hitting 2 home runs last weekend in their series against Western Kentucky. If he can get going then that’s a huge boost to this offense.
Ryan Ruggles pitched his best game of the season last weekend by tossing 8 scoreless innings in UAB’s 2-0 win over WKU, which brought his season ERA down 2.20. Tanner Graham was solid in his last start as well, but his ERA still sits in the mid-four range. Adam Lamar leads the team with an ERA of 1.54 (of pitchers that have thrown more than 7 innings), and he could get the start again this Sunday.
Dylan Munger (2.45), Garrett Whitlock (3.24), Thomas Lowery (4.01) and Austin Thomas (4.67) are all Shoop’s go-to guys out of the bullpen.
As mentioned, Rice isn’t going to run away in any of these games, so UAB will have to come up with some big hits whenever they get opportunities against that Rice pitching staff if they’re going to have a chance to win.
One win against Rice is almost mandatory at this point, but a series win could give this team the confidence they need to shoot up the standings as they’ll have already faced the two toughest teams in Conference USA.
Weekend Schedule: UAB (11-18, 3-6) vs. Rice (18-10, 7-2)
Friday – 6:30 p.m. CT – Reckling Park (L, 7-3)
Probable Starters: Jon Duplantier (2-3, 2.55 ERA, 61 Ks) vs. Ryan Ruggles (3-2, 2.20 ERA, 22 Ks)
Saturday – 2 p.m. CT – Reckling Park
Probable Starters: Blake Fox (2-4, 2.58 ERA, 39 Ks)
Sunday – 1 p.m. CT – Reckling Park
Probable Starters: Ricardo Salinas (4-1, 4.54 ERA, 40 Ks) vs. Adam Lamar (3-1, 1.54 ERA, 16 Ks)