Jan. 28, 2011
HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team, ranked as high as No. 17 in the country in one national preseason poll, held its first practice of 2011 on Friday (Jan. 29) at Reckling Park. Not only did Rice head coach Wayne Graham welcome back 23 returning lettermen from last season's squad that went 40-23 and won the Conference USA regular season championship, he was also visited by four former Owls who helped lead Rice to the 2003 NCAA National Championship.
Owl greats from the National Championship team, Austin Davis, Paul Janish, Chris Kolkhorst and Justin Ruchti, were on hand as the 2011 squad worked out as a team for the first time this season. With area temperatures in the mid-70s and clear skies for the first day of baseball practice, having some of the players from the 2003 team in attendance made a picture-perfect day at Reckling Park that much more enjoyable.
On the first day of practice Coach Graham, who is now in his 20th season at the helm of the baseball program, had the team in batting practice and fielding drills before a Blue-Gray scrimmage. His 2011 squad has five returning starters in the field and a host of veteran pitchers from a year ago. In addition to junior third baseman Anthony Rendon, the 2010 Howser Trophy winner as the collegiate player of the year, the Owls have a highly-touted group of incoming freshmen players making their Division I debut this spring.
Rice's talented team is no secret in college baseball circles. In a look at some of the current national preseason polls, the Owls are ranked 17th in the country by USA Today/ESPN, 18th in Baseball America, and 21st according to Collegiate Baseball magazine.
Even with high preseason rankings, the team has a challenging 2011 season to prepare for in a short time. The Owls officially open the schedule in just three short weeks with a three-game home series against nationally-ranked Stanford on Feb. 18-20.
In 2010 the Rice baseball team went 40-23 and advanced to an NCAA Regional for a 16th-straight year. The Owls have won at least 40 games in each of the last 16 seasons and have won or shared 15-consecutive conference championships (including regular season and/or conference tournament titles).
Season ticket plans for Rice's 32-game home baseball schedule are now on sale through the Rice Athletic Ticket Office and online. Packages start as low as $125 for adult general admission tickets, while reserved seat options begin as low as $190.