Feb. 10, 2014
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Rice Baseball Opens 2014 Season Friday; Owls Visit No. 25 Ranked Stanford
The Rice baseball team, 44-20 a year ago and a consensus Top 20 team in the current preseason polls, opens the 2014 campaign on Friday (Feb. 14) on the road against No. 25 ranked Stanford. The Owls visit the Cardinal (32-22 in 2013) in a three-game weekend series in Palo Alto, Calif. Start time for the season-opener is set for 6:30 pm (Central Time, 4:30 Pacific Time). The first pitch Saturday is 4 pm while Sunday's game begins at 2 pm. (All listed times are Central Time).
Audio Broadcasts - Catch Every Rice Baseball Game On The Web
Every Rice baseball game this season will be broadcast live around the world on the Internet at RiceOwls.com. Tune-in to the pregame show 15 minutes before each game's first pitch. J.P. Heath is in his sixth season as the voice of the Owls.
Live Stats On GameTracker
Links to live play-by-play text and statistics from every game are posted on RiceOwls.com. Look for the GameTracker links on the Rice Athletics front page, the weekly series preview, the baseball schedule page.
98th Season On The Baseball Diamond
Rice Owl baseball made its debut in the spring of 1913, just one semester after the school (then The Rice Institute) opened its doors for higher education in the fall of 1912. The 2014 season is, however, only the Owls' 98th season playing on the diamond. The school cancelled its baseball season in 1919 and did not field a team for three years (1933-35) during the Great Depression. Rice returned to the diamond in the spring of 1936 and has been playing ever since. The Rice baseball program's all-time record is 1,904 - 1,509 - 9.
Follow The Tweeting Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceOwlsBSB while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceOwlsdotcom
National Ranking Update Owls Debut In the Top 20
The Owls are represented in a host of different preseason polls across the country. Here's a closer look at the 2014 preseason rankings:
Head Coach Wayne Graham - Close To Another Milestone Victory
Four-time national coach of the year and 2012 College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Graham (Texas, 1970) is in his 23rd season at Rice. The 2014 campaign marks his 34th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 997-400 with the Owls (598-145 at home, 307-198 on the road games and 92-57 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .714, the best in school history.
Another way of looking at Graham's .714 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 116 games in a single year... Graham's career record vs. Stanford is 6-9 (3-3 home, 1-5 road, 2-1 neutral). Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2013, making 19-straight seasons for Rice to earn an NCAA appearance. The Blue & Gray has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13. The 2003 bid culminated with the Owls' first national championship... Rice played in the 1994-95-96 Southwest Conference tournaments (winning the final league title in `96), won the 1997-98-99 WAC tournaments, shared the 2000 WAC title with San Jose State before winning the 2001-02-03-04-05 titles outright. He won (or shared) C-USA regular season crowns in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and now 2013 as well as the C-USA tournament championships in `06, `07, `09, `11 and `13... Graham was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 1998, `99, `02 and the Co-Coach of the Year in `03. He was named the Keith LeClair C-USA Coach of the Year in `06, his first year in the league, and again in `07, `08, `10 and `11... Rice has seven appearances in the NCAA College World Series under Graham (1997, `99, `02, `03, `06, `07, `08)... Graham has led the Owls to number-one rankings for seven weeks during the 1999 season, for six weeks during the `01 campaign, two weeks in `02, six weeks in 2003 (the last of which established some staying power), three weeks in 2004, 12 weeks in 2006 and five weeks in `07... Graham's San Jacinto Gators dominated the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., in the 1980s, winning five national titles in six years (1985-86-87, 89-90)... The Austin American-Statesman named Graham its SWC Coach of the Year in `95 after he led the Owls to their first NCAA tournament appearance... Collegiate Baseball was especially cognizant of Graham's efforts at San Jac. He was named the newspaper's Coach of the Decade for all levels in the 1980s after winning those five junior college national titles, and CB tabbed him the NJCAA Coach of the Century... He was named the 2007 Division I college Coach of the Year by FieldTurf... One of the few current collegiate coaches to have played in the major leagues (N.Y. Mets in 1963, Philadelphia in 1964), Graham is aided by assistant coaches Patrick Hallmark (Rice, 1995, Brown College; ninth year), Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; third year) and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; second year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Hallmark coaches at first base.
1,571 Wins A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 997 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,571 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall collegiate record is 1,571-513 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.
Openers Under Wayne Graham
Looking sharp out of the gate is nothing new for Rice under Wayne Graham. The Owls are 16-6 in their season-opener under Graham and 19-3 in their home-opener.
Postseason Streak At 19-Straight, Now Looking For 20
Rice baseball's 19-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the fourth-longest active streak in the country. In 2013 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 41st-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (36) and Cal State Fullerton (22). Rice's 19-straight NCAA Tournament bids is the sixth-longest postseason streak in Division I baseball history.
Conference Titles Streak Reaches 18-Straight
Rice has won or shared a total of 18-straight conference championships (including either regular season and/or conference tournament titles) dating back to 1996. The streak covers membership in three different leagues beginning with the Southwest Conference (1996), to nine seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1997-2005) and eight C-USA titles in as many years. The Owls shared the 2013 regular season title with co-champion Southern Miss, then won the C-USA Tournament by defeating that same Golden Eagle squad in the title game. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 18 years:
Year Conf. Regular Season Conf. Tourney
2013 C-USA tied 1st 1st
2012 C-USA 1st tied 5th
2011 C-USA tied 1st 1st
2010 C-USA 1st 2nd
2009 C-USA 2nd 1st
2008 C-USA 1st tied 7th
2007 C-USA 1st 1st
2006 C-USA 1st 1st
2005 WAC 1st no tourney
2004 WAC 1st no tourney
2003 WAC 1st no tourney
2002 WAC 1st no tourney
2001 WAC 1st no tourney
2000 WAC tied 1st no tourney
1999 WAC 1st 1st
1998 WAC 1st South Div. 1st
1997 WAC 1st South Div. 1st
1996 SWC tied 6th 1st
19-Straight 40-Win Seasons
Rice enters the 2014 campaign with 19-straight seasons of posting at least 40 wins. `Forty' wins actually short-changes the feat a little. The Owls have secured at least 41 wins in 18 of the last 19 years.
Quick On The 2014 Owls
Rice began spring practices on January 25. The 2014 Owls return six offensive starters in the batting order and ten veteran pitchers who helped last year's squad reach the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. Senior third baseman Shane Hoelscher returns at the hot corner and junior first baseman Skyler Ewing was one of the stars of the fall training program. One change from a year ago is the potential move of sophomore Leon Byrd, a C-USA All-Freshman and NCAA All-Regional honoree, from centerfield to shortstop. Veteran shortstop Ford Stainback would move over to second base to take the place of senior/MLB draftee Christian Stringer. Look for the Owl outfield to be comprised of three natives of The Woodlands, Texas, with the senior duo of Michael Aquino (LF) and Keenan Cook (RF) - both from College Park Hight School. True freshman Charlie Warren (The Woodlands HS) caught the coaches' attention as the possible new centerfielder. Keep an eye on newcomer John Clay Reeves (Navarro College) to split time behind the plate with sophomore Hunter Kopycinski, who was one of the stars of the Owls' NCAA postseason run.
Stephens Stands Out Final Weekend Rotation TBA
Wayne Graham will officially announce the team's starting rotation at a later time. One Owl the head coach firmly labeled as a weekend starter is junior right-hander Jordan Stephens. Stephens has been a sound and solid starter each of the past two seasons. A year ago the Alvin, Texas, native went 8-4 with a 2.48 ERA. In 17 starts Stephens averaged more than 6.2 innings per outing and held opponents to a composite .219 batting average. In his second start of the season (at Hawaii on Feb. 23) he logged what was then the best game of his young Rice career. At Hawaii he pitched the staff's (and his) first complete game, holding the Rainbows to just one run (which was unearned) on four hits while striking out ten - all on the road. On May 4 at UAB Stephens fanned 11 Blazer hitters in just 7.2 innings. In the 2013 NCAA Regional he fired a two-hit complete game shutout with a career-high tying 11 strikeouts against Oregon (June 1), lifting Rice past the Ducks in a winner's-bracket game. He averaged 7.6 strikeouts per 9.0 innings and maintained a 3.2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. In his inaugural season of Division I baseball in 2012, Stephens caught the coaches' attention in the fall practices and earned the No. 3 starting spot to begin the year. He went on to pitch in 14 games overall and finish fourth on the team with eight starts. One of his early breakout performances was 6.2 shutout innings at No. 2 Stanford where held the Cardinal to just three hits.
Zech Lemond Garners National Preseason Honors
Junior right-handed pitcher Zech Lemond (pronounced "Zack Leh-mawn") has been named a preseason All-America by both Collegiate Baseball magazine (a second team pick) and the NCBWA (third team selection). A year ago Lemond finished as the C-USA co-leader with 14 saves while posting a 7-2 record, 2.02 ERA and 1.018 WHIP. The right-hander from Houston (Waltrip High School) struck out 71 in 75.2 innings and held all opponents to a composite .207 batting average. He was a first team all-conference reliever and he went on to earn all-region honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association. Lemond's 14 saves set the new Rice single season record, eclipsing the Owls' previous mark that was shared by eventual major leaguers David Aardsma and Tony Cingrani.
The 2014 Conference USA Favorites
IRVING, Tex. - With four preseason all-conference players, including Zech Lemond as the 2014 Preseason Pitcher of the Year, 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... The addition of seven new teams to the conference this season, and the departure of three from a year ago, has certainly changed the C-USA landscape. Coaches' respect for the Rice baseball program, however, has held steady. Twelve of the 13 C-USA head coaches voted Rice as the preseason favorite for 2014. No matter what teams have comprised the league membership since Rice joined in 2006, C-USA coaches have picked the Owls as the preseason favorite every year there has been a poll (officially eight-of-the-last-nine years as there was no coaches poll conducted in 2010). Rice's veteran standouts, including Lemond (Jr., RHP), and fellow C-USA preseason honorees Michael Aquino (Sr. OF), Shane Hoelscher (Sr., INF) and Jordan Stephens (Jr., RHP), have the full attention of the C-USA head coaches. The Owls also have a highly-touted group of incoming freshmen players making their Division I debut this spring.
2014 PRESEASON BASEBALL AWARDS (selected by C-USA's head coaches)
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Rice (12)
2. Florida Atlantic
3. East Carolina
4. Southern Miss
5. Tulane (1)
9. Middle Tennessee
10. Old Dominion
13. Louisiana Tech
(first place votes in parentheses)
CO-PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Drew Reynolds, East Carolina (Senior, DH/RHP)
Aramis Garcia, FIU (Junior, Catcher)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Zech Lemond, Rice (Junior, Right-hander)
P Austin Gomber Jr. Florida Atlantic
P Jeff Hoffman Jr. East Carolina
P Jordan Stephens Jr. Rice
RP Zech Lemond Jr. Rice
C Aramis Garcia Jr. FIU
IF Brad Elwood Jr. Charlotte
IF Shane Hoelscher Sr. Rice
IF R.J. Perucki Sr. UTSA
IF Edwin Rios So. FIU
OF Michael Aquino Sr. Rice
OF Josh Eldridge Jr. Old Dominion
OF Ryan Stephens Sr. Middle Tennessee
OF Mason Robbins Jr. Southern Miss
DH/UT Drew Reynolds Sr. East Carolina
New-Look Conference USA
Seven new baseball-playing members (Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion and UTSA) joined Conference USA for the 2014 season. Those seven members join returning schools East Carolina, Marshall, Southern Miss, Tulane, UAB and Rice to create a 13 team baseball league that will play a 30-game conference schedule this season. Here's how the incoming members did a year ago:
Team From... Record League
Charlotte Atlantic 10 37-23 17-7
Florida International Sun Belt 26-32 13-17
Florida Atlantic Sun Belt 42-22 19-11
Louisiana Tech WAC 19-37 6-21
Mid Tennessee Sun Belt 28-28 11-19
Old Dominion Colonial 30-24 15-12
UTSA WAC 35-25 15-11
Florida Atlantic and UTSA each won their conference championships and participated in NCAA Regionals. Florida Atlantic advanced to the Chapel Hill Regional final before losing to No. 1 national seed North Carolina in extra innings.
Solid In C-USA Regular Season Action
Since its first Conference USA baseball campaign in the spring of 2006, Rice's regular-season record in C-USA league games is 148-46 (.763).
Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded out there, Rice was 20-8 in its all-white uniforms, 4-3 in the pinstripes, 8-6 in all-gray, 6-1 in blue tops with white pants and 6-2 in blue tops with gray pants... Acting on a suggestion Owl great Lance Berkman made to his former head coach Wayne Graham, Rice baseball announced a new addition to its uniform lineup for the 2014 season. Inspired by the iconic St. Louis Cardinals' jersey, the new alternate top features two owls perched atop a bat. With Adidas as the official uniform supplier for Rice Athletics, coach Graham took Berkman's suggestion to introduce something new. "We wanted to stay with our traditional look," said coach Graham, "but also be innovative and pay homage to a classic, beautiful look like that of the Cardinals. This doesn't replace our traditional uniforms," coach Graham explained. "They are simply an addition that gives us a chance to showcase the owl mascot."
Rice Since 1999
Using the 1999 season as the starting point (the year the NCAA expanded the postseason tournament field to 64 teams with the current Super Regional format), Rice baseball has maintained one of the nation's top win percentages over the last 15 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999 to 2013:
Team Years Wins Loses Ties PCT
Florida State 15 748 261 1 .741
Rice 15 720 260 0 .735
North Carolina 15 694 274 1 .717
Cal State Fullerton 15 666 275 0 .708
South Carolina 15 704 294 0 .705
Coastal Carolina 15 651 277 0 .702
Texas 15 671 293 1 .696
Arizona State 15 604 265 2 .695
Oral Roberts 15 624 281 0 .690
Miami (Fla.) 15 638 294 3 .684
LSU 15 662 305 5 .684
Georgia Tech 15 639 302 1 .679
Wichita State 15 672 329 0 .671
Stanford 15 600 314 2 .656
Clemson 15 641 338 1 .655
Southern 15 464 246 0 .654
Virginia 15 587 315 3 .650
Tulane 15 600 323 2 .650
Nebraska 15 591 321 2 .648
East Carolina 15 586 321 3 .646
Fla. Atlantic 15 581 326 1 .640
Notre Dame 15 574 322 5 .640
Dallas Baptist 15 566 319 1 .639
Kent State 15 564 328 0 .632
College of Charleston 15 556 327 1 .630
Florida 15 593 350 2 .629
Ohio State 15 557 331 1 .627
Oklahoma State 15 565 337 0 .626
Oregon State 15 540 324 0 .625
TCU 15 568 342 0 .624
Texas A&M 15 583 352 3 .623
Southern Miss 15 565 347 0 .620
Mississippi 15 573 355 1 .617
Arkansas 15 572 355 1 .617
Streaks Carrying Over...
Because the NCAA recognizes hitting streaks carried-over from one college season to the next, junior infielder Ford Stainback begins 2014 with a nine-game hitting streak. Sophomore Leon Byrd has hit safely in six consecutive games, while Michael Aquino, Keenan Cook and Shane Hoelscher all enter the new season with at least one hit in their previous game.
Rice 15th In Average Home Attendance
In 2013 Rice averaged more than 3,200 fans for the 32 home games at Reckling Park. The Owls were 15th in the nation in average home attendance. Here were the final national attendance leaders (by home average).
1. LSU 11,006
2. Arkansas 8,335
3. Ole Miss 7,996
4. Mississippi State 7,617
5. South Carolina 7,445
6. Texas 5,793
7. Clemson 4,751
8. Florida State 4,594
9. Texas A&M 4,523
10. Creighton 4,041
11. TCU 3,570
12. Florida 3,511
13. Hawaii 3,357
14. Alabama 3,262
15. Rice 3,252
Rice Also 16th In Total Home Attendance
Rice baseball drew more than 97,500 fans for the 32 home games. That was also the 16th highest attendance total in the country.
The Long Haul
Two of the five longest games (by innings) in C-USA history were played last season, and the Owls were in both nail-biting affairs. On February 22 Rice played in what tied for the third-longest game in C-USA history, a 2-0 victory in 17 innings at Hawaii. It was the most innings played by a C-USA school since Cincinnati and Kentucky played 17 in 1999. The Blue & Gray then matched that marathon with another 17-inning game at NC State in the NCAA Super Regional. A Rice win in that contest would have evened the series 1-1 and set up a third and deciding Super Regional game where the winner would have gone on to the College World Series. Here's a look at the longest contests in the league by the number of innings:
22.0 Houston vs. Baylor 2-21-99
21.0 Memphis vs. Evansville 3-7-99
17.0 Cincinnati vs. Kentucky 5-5-99
17.0 Rice at Hawaii 2-22-13
17.0 Rice at NC State 6-9-13
Owls In "The Show" Last Season
The Owls' list of active major league players for 2013 included Lance Berkman (Rangers), Tony Cingrani (Reds), Brock Holt (Red Sox), Philip Humber (Astros), Paul Janish (Braves), Matt Langwell (Indians and Diamondbacks), Lucas Luetge (Mariners), Jeff Niemann (Rays), Anthony Rendon (Nationals) and Joe Savery (Phillies). Updates from the `Hot Stove League' saw Berkman announce his retirement from the majors, while Humber signed with the Oakland A's and Janish with the Colorado Rockies.
Owls Ink Eight In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program signed eight high school standouts in November who will join the team for the 2015 season. The Owls' latest signing class includes four multi-position players who are versatile enough to contribute as both a pitcher and/or position player/hitter. All are from the high school ranks and seven of the eight are from the greater-Houston area who will be able to have their family and hometown fans continue to watch them play games at Rice's Reckling Park. The class includes Rhp/C Willy Amador from Bryan, Texas, infielders Tristan Gray of Missouri City and Dane Myers of Katy, outfielders Khevin Brewer of Richmond and Stone Garrett of Sugar Land, and the Houston trio of OF/Inf Ryan Chandler, Rhp Michael Rodgers, and Rhp/OF Ricardo Salinas.
The Program's Newest Owl Is Safe At Home
It may not have been the national signing day for baseball on Feb. 5, but the Rice Owls are happy to announce the newest addition to the starting lineup for assistant coach Pat Hallmark and his wife, Jada (a former Rice assistant swim coach). Daughter Georgia Gwynn Hallmark, child number four if you're scoring at home, arrived at 2:20 am that morning weighing six pounds, 15 ounces.