Former USM pitcher moves from diamond to cage

Dalton Rice of Waterford will compete in his first blended martial arts bout Could 13 on the Aura in Portland in opposition to Zach Danesh of Massachusetts. Derek Davis/employees photographer

WESTBROOK Dalton Rice struggled to reply. Why?

Why drive an hour every means from his dwelling in Waterford to a gymnasium in Westbrook to coach and wrestle? Why topic your physique to the pains of blended martial arts coaching?

When it was steered that diving into MMA a yr in the past stuffed a aggressive void that had been lacking since his collegiate baseball profession ended 4 years in the past on the College of Southern Maine, Rice nodded emphatically.

That is a great way to place it. Aggressive vacuum, stated Rice, 26. I simply wished to coach and from day one I used to be hooked. If I will spend all this time coaching, I am touring an hour every means, I’ve acquired to have a objective of some type.

An influence pitcher in his time at USM who holds this system report for profession strikeouts with 244 in 195 innings, Rice is within the last phases of coaching for his first MMA battle, scheduled for Could 13 as a part of the New England Fights NEF 52 at Aura in Portland. A Maine-based MMA promoter, New England Fights usually stage battle playing cards in Aura or Bangor.

Rice’s opponent shall be Zach Danesh, a 37-year-old black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu from Massachusetts. Danesh is simply barely extra skilled than Rice, with a 1-1 report.

It is nice for a man to have his first battle in opposition to a Brazilian black belt in jiu-jitsu, so I believe it speaks quite a bit about Dalton’s character and want for a problem, stated Darren Elder, Rice’s boxing coach at Recon Health in Westbrook. I believe (Rices) is a well-rounded fighter. Being 0-0, we’ll discover out, proper?

Dalton Rice, left, works out with Dylan Cobbett at Recon Health in Westbrook. Rice, a former College of Southern Maine pitcher, is coaching for his upcoming MMA debut in Portland. Derek Davis/employees photographer

Rice had hoped to make his debut sooner, however he and his spouse, Tayla, have been anticipating their first little one, a daughter who’s now 4 months outdated. At first, Tayla was nervous about Rice beginning MMA, however now she’s okay with it, she stated.

Rice’s former USM teammates aren’t stunned by their associates’ new athletic pursuit. Devin Warren performed baseball with Rice and was his roommate after they have been freshmen. They usually wrestled of their dorm room, Warren stated. Rice struggled competitively by center college earlier than focusing extra on baseball. He additionally performed golf and basketball at Oxford Hills Complete Excessive College in Paris.

I think about myself a powerful man and it turned me right into a pretzel. He has that confidence you have been born with, Warren stated.

A 2014 graduate of Oxford Hills, Rice spent his first season at USM whereas recovering from Tommy John surgical procedure to restore the ulnar collateral ligament in his proper elbow. He completed his faculty profession with a 13-9 report in 44 video games, together with 39 begins, with a 4.42 ERA. At 6-foot-4 and 210 kilos (Rice will battle at 185), he was an intimidating presence on the mound, with a fastball he might carry into the low 90s.

Dalton Rice warms up throughout indoor baseball apply on the College of Southern Maine in March 2017. Rice holds the USM profession report for strikeouts with 244 in 195 innings. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/employees photographer

He had an ideal character. He was a type of guys who, you knew he meant enterprise. We actually loved taking part in behind him. He made issues fairly simple for us on the sphere, stated Dylan Hapworth, one other former USM teammate who met Rice after they have been 14 and taking part in on the identical baseball staff at AAU.

Sam Dexter was the Huskies’ All-American shortstop and staff chief when Rice got here in for Dexter’s junior season in 2015. Dexter watched Rice’s rehabilitation from his elbow surgical procedure all through that season and has vivid reminiscences of the primary Rice’s profession begin.

Within the second recreation of the 2016 season got here an Opening Day doubleheader in opposition to Worcester State in Massachusetts. Rice pitched six shutout innings, permitting 4 hits whereas putting out 9 and strolling one. Rice remembers his nerves. Dexter remembers listening to that the Huskies had one other child who was enthusiastic about profitable, the form of participant coach Ed Flaherty excelled at discovering.

(Flaherty) appears to be like for that within the recruits, and Dalton suits into that, Dexter stated. All of us knew he was going to be a specialty pitcher on the time.

Dalton Rice, left, trains at Westbrooks Recon Health Friday earlier than his blended martial arts debut at Portland’s Aura on Could 13. Derek Davis/employees photographer

Rice earned first-team all-Little East Convention honors following his sophomore season, through which he went 6-1 with a 3.78 ERA whereas putting out 80 in 69 innings. Arm accidents restricted his innings within the junior and senior seasons. Nonetheless, in June 2019, Rice flew to Orem, Utah with plans to signal a rookie free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels and start pitching for the membership’s Pioneer League affiliate. As an alternative, Rice went straight dwelling after failing the Angels bodily. When requested what was the matter with the physique, Rice declined to reply.

It simply did not work, Rice stated.

Residing at dwelling in Waterford and dealing as an arborist with Rice Tree Providers, the household enterprise, Rice contacted Jon Deupree, the proprietor of Recon Health, and requested to return in and practice.

As quickly as I began, I knew I wished to compete at a sure degree. It made sense to maintain it that means, Rice stated.

One space the place novice Rice has an edge over Danesh is bounty. Each weigh 185 kilos, however Rice is seven inches taller than the 5-foot-9 Danesh.

Anytime there is a attain benefit, that is an excellent factor, Rice stated. I am fairly comfy with whichever means the battle goes, to be sincere with you. I believe possibly my largest asset is simply the truth that I believe I understand how to compete and I understand how to dig deep when issues aren’t simple.

Since his faculty baseball profession resulted in 2019, Dalton Rice has sought a aggressive vacuum. He found it whereas coaching for a blended martial arts match. Derek Davis/employees photographer

In a current exercise, Rice labored with Elder on punching, coach Henry Clark on kicking and takedowns, and Dylan Cobbett, an outdated buddy from the Oxford Hills, on grappling.

He is an ideal athlete and learns in a short time, Elder stated. He is an enormous sturdy boy, for certain. He has been blessed with many good attributes. It will likely be fascinating to see how that interprets to grappling and strikes.

Proper now, Rice is not certain how far he can go in his new sport. He simply is aware of that the aggressive vacuum has been stuffed.

I haven’t got an finish objective, actually. I like being right here and I like competing, Rice stated.

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