Jan. 30, 2013
IRVING, Tex. - With three preseason all-conference players, including the duo of junior Austin Kubitza and Christian Stringer as the 2013 Preseason Pitcher and Player of the Year, respectively, the Rice baseball team was picked to finish first in the league in the annual Conference USA head coaches' poll the C-USA office announced on Wednesday (Jan. 30).
In his first season of Division I baseball after transferring from Navarro College, Stringer took C-USA by storm in 2012. The junior second baseman batted a team-leading .343 in 59 starts, and he maintained a .389 average in C-USA league games. The Longview, Texas, native also led the team and ranked among the conference leaders in hits (81), runs (58) and on-base percentage (.448). He was second in walks (38) and steals (6), but his defense might have made the biggest impact to the Owls. Stringer maintained a .978 fielding percentage at second base where he turned or started 35 of the Owls' 46 double plays.
A year ago Kubitza was a first team All-Conference USA selection after finishing with a 6-5 record and ranking second on the staff in ERA (2.69), innings pitched (80.1) and strikeouts (73). The right-hander from Colleyville, Texas, shared the team lead in starts (15) and he held all opposing hitters to a .211 batting average. He was named the C-USA Freshman of the Year after his first Division I season in 2011 and was also the league's preseason Pitcher of the Year last season.
Stringer and Kubitza are joined by fellow Owl Michael Ratterree on the preseason All-Conference USA team, giving Rice a league-high-tying three selections. Ratterree posted a .407 slugging percentage last season with 20 extra-base hits (13 doubles, one triple and six home runs). The local standout from Memorial High School drew a team-high 42 walks, giving him a .378 on-base percentage. He also drove in 33 runs and unselfishly moved to a new defensive position in the outfield to better-help the team.
The announcement of the C-USA coaches' poll is just 16 days before the Owls are scheduled to play their 2013 season-opener at home at Reckling Park against national power Stanford on Feb. 15. Rice's talented team is no secret in college baseball circles. The Owls are ranked 17th in the country in the USA Today Coaches Poll, 18th by both Baseball America and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers (NCBWA), and 20th according to Collegiate Baseball magazine.
Under the direction of head coach Wayne Graham, who is now in his 22nd season at the helm of the program, Rice returns four of the nine starters in the batting order and a host of veteran pitchers from a year ago. The Owls also have a highly-touted group of incoming freshmen players making their Division I debut this spring.
Rice baseball has won at least 40 games in each of the last 18 seasons and have won or shared 17-consecutive conference championships (including regular season and/or conference tournament titles). The Owls won the 2012 Conference USA championship on the last day of the regular season and advanced to NCAA Regionals for an 18th-straight year.
Season tickets tickets for Rice baseball are available for purchase on-line at RiceOwls.com. Single-game tickets are available for purchase on Friday, Feb. 1. The opening three-game series against Stanford is perhaps the nation's premiere college match-up of the early season. The Cardinal are ranked in the Top 10 of every preseason poll and as high as No. 4 in the nation.
2013 PRESEASON BASEBALL AWARDS
(as selected by C-USA's head coaches)
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Rice (7)
2. Southern Miss (1)
3. East Carolina
5. Tulane (1)
(first place votes in parentheses)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Christian Stringer, Rice (Senior, Infielder)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Austin Kubitza, Rice (Junior, Right-hander)
P Austin Kubitza, Jr., Rice
P Sam Moll, Jr. Memphis
P Andrew Pierce, Sr., Southern Miss
RP Bradley Roney, So., Southern Miss
C Ryan Breen, Sr. UCF
IF Garrett Cannizaro, Sr., Tulane
IF Brennan Middleton, Sr., Tulane
IF Jack Reinheimer, Jr., East Carolina
IF Christian Stringer, Sr., Rice
IF Chris Taladay, Sr., UCF
OF Landon Appling, Jr., Houston
OF Brandon Boudreaux, Sr., Tulane
OF Michael Ratterree, Sr., Rice
OF Mason Robbins, So., Southern Miss
DH/UT Drew Reynolds, Jr., East Carolina