Baseball Season Opens Friday

Feb. 15, 2018

E-mail baseball SID John Sullivan

Visit These Links

LISTEN online (pregame show 15 min. before start)
PDF of Rice’s pregame release

All Game Times Listed Are CENTRAL TIME
Feb. 16 (Fri.) 11 am; Rice vs. Samford

Live stats online (activates at game time)

Feb. 17 (Sat.) 4 pm; Rice at UCF
Live stats online (activates at game time)
WATCH UCF webcast online (subscription service)

Feb. 18 (Sun.) 9 am; Rice vs. No. 15 Virginia
Live Stats online (activates at game time)

(Saturday's UCF game is the only webcast this weekend.)

Rice Baseball Opens 2018 Season In Orlando
The Rice baseball team (33-31 a year ago and the Conference USA tournament champions) plays its season-opener on Feb. 16 at the UCF tournament in Orlando, Fla. The Owls face a powerhouse field of UCF, Virginia and Samford in round-robin action this weekend at John Euliano Park in Orlando. Start time for Friday’s season-opener vs. Samford is set for 11 am Central Time (noon Eastern). Rice meets tourney host UCF, the No. 22 ranked team in the preseason, at 4 pm Central Time on Saturday. First pitch of Sunday’s finale vs. No. 15 ranked Virginia is scheduled for 9 am Central Time.

Play-By-Play Audio On The Web
Every Rice baseball game is scheduled for a live audio broadcast on the Internet at Tune-in to the broadcast’s pregame show 15 minutes before first pitch. Matt Pedersen has the Rice-call for this weekend’s games in Orlando and a host of early-season games. J.P. Heath will be back for his tenth season as the voice of the Owls after the completion of the respective Rice men’s and women’s basketball seasons.

Saturday’s Game Set For UCF Webcast
One Rice game this weekend, the Owls’ Saturday clash at UCF, is slated for a live online webcast by the host institution. Log onto for pricing information and details.

Follow The Tweeting Rice Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceBaseball while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceAthletics. Twitter is perhaps the fastest way to get weather-related changes to the schedule/updated start times.

Live Stats Links Online at
Links to live play-by-play text and statistics from every game, home and away, are posted on Look for the links on the Rice Athletics front page, the weekly series preview, and/or the baseball schedule page.

National Postseason Streak At 23-Straight
Rice baseball’s 23-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is now the third-longest active streak in the nation. Three of the country’s top four streaks of making the NCAA Tournament are all of the active variety. In 2017 Florida State made the field for the 40th-consecutive year, while Cal State Fullerton is in for the 26th-straight year.

Head Coach Wayne Graham
Four-time national coach of the year and 2012 College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Graham (Texas, 1970) is beginning his 27th season at Rice. The 2018 campaign marks his 38th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,147-497 with the Owls (676-187 at home, 362-237 on the road and 109-73 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .698, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham’s .698 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 113 games in a single year... Graham is 0-0 vs. Samford, 24-10 vs. UCF (12-7 home, 9-3 road, 3-0 neutral), and 0-1 vs. Virginia (0-1 home)... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2017, making 23-straight seasons for Rice to earn a NCAA appearance. The Blue & Gray has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17. 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, 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as the C-USA tournament championships in `06, `07, `09, `11, `13, `14 and `17... 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, all 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 head coaches to have played in the major leagues (N.Y. Mets in 1963, Philadelphia in 1964), Graham is aided by assistant coaches John Pope (Rice, 1990, Jones College; second year), Paul Janish (Rice, 2004; first year), and Jordan Kopycinski (Texas State, 2010; first year).

1,722 Collegiate Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,147 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,722 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham’s overall “collegiate record” is 1,722-610 in a coaching career that began in 1981 (37 years completed, now in 38th).

Season Openers Under Wayne Graham
The Looking sharp out of the gate is nothing new for Rice under Wayne Graham. The Owls are 19-7 in their 26 season-openers under Graham. In the five times under Graham that Rice has opened its season with a game at a neutral site, the Blue & Gray is 4-1. Rice opened its season at a neutral site five times in the six seasons from 1999 and 2004. The most-recent neutral season-opener in 2004 was a 9-6 victory over Texas Tech at Minute Maid Park. The Owls have not had a season-opening game at a neutral site outside the state of Texas since 2000 (a loss to Clemson held at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)... Also, Rice is also 20-6 in its respective home-openers under the current head coach.

Possible Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham announced Rice’s starting pitchers for the season-opening games as the right-handed trio of Ricardo Salinas, Matt Canterino and Addison Moss. Here’s a little closer look at the Owl rotation.
• Redshirt junior Ricardo Salinas (1-1, 5.60 ERA) was ready to serve as one of the veterans on young Rice pitching staff in 2017, but the right-hander was sidelined early in his fourth start of the year and missed the remainder of the season. Salinas was the Owls’ starting pitcher on the second day of the season on the road at nationally-ranked Texas, where he struck out five in 5.1 innings. The Houston native followed with a start against NCAA Regional participant Southeastern Louisiana, posting a season-high seven strikeouts, before facing west coast powers Pepperdine and Stanford. He finished the year with 15 strikeouts in 17.2 innings, and having him for all of 2017 could have made for a completely different Rice season. Salinas worked hard to rejoin his teammates this year, where he is officially listed as a redshirt junior on the field and a senior in the classroom.
• A year ago Matt Canterino (5-5, 4.12 ERA) delivered some solid outings in his debut season at the Division I level. He led Conference USA, and ranked 27th in the NCAA, with 111 strikeouts. Canterino also led the league, and ranked 31st in the nation, for fewest hits allowed per 9.0 innings (6.28) on the way to being named to the 2017 C-USA All-Freshman squad. The Southlake, Texas, native posted wins over Stanford, FIU, Western Kentucky, UAB and Florida Atlantic. He was sensational vs. FAU at the C-USA Tournament, where he struck out a career-high 11 in a career-long 7.2 innings to earn selection to the C-USA All-Tournament team. Now a veteran sophomore, Canterino was particularly sharp in the team’s scrimmages in the off-season training program.
• Versatile Addison Moss (3-2, 6.30 ERA) played either as a pitcher or infielder in 33 of the team’s 64 games in 2017. His regular pitching role was 22 relief appearances totaling 37.2 innings, but he made his first and only collegiate start on the mound in easily the most boisterous environment in all of college baseball - a night game in the NCAA Tournament against nationally-ranked LSU at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge. The then true freshman did not show any signs of being influenced by the rowdy crowd. Moss pitched without allowing any walks against the Tigers, but could have used some defensive help from his teammates before being charged with three unearned runs in the second inning... Perhaps his very best Rice outing to date was one very few Americans saw. In November of 2016 he was the lone rookie to play in the Owls’ exhibition road game at professional Cuban League team Artemisa (southwest of Havana). The versatile freshman started the game at first base batting seventh in the lineup, and was error-free in the field in nine defensive chances. He then switched spots with Owl starting pitcher Dane Myers in the bottom of the seventh inning and closed out the final 3.0 scoreless frames for an international exhibition save. In his debut on international soil, Moss scattered two singles with no walks and one strikeout in the 4-0 shutout victory at Estadio 26 de Julio in Cuba.   

Preseason Eyes On Canterino For National Honors
DALLAS -- Rice’s Matt Canterino has been named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ (NCBWA) 2018 Preseason All-America Third Team, the organization announced on February 5... Canterino’s sensational debut season of Division I baseball included selection to the C-USA All-Tournament and All-Freshmen teams. As a rookie right-hander in 2017, the Southlake, Texas, native finished 12th in the nation with 10.4 strikeouts per 9.0 innings (minimum 96.0 inn.) and led the league with the fewest hits allowed per 9.0 innings (6.28). During one stretch of games Canterino posted double-digit strikeouts in three consecutive starts, becoming the first Owl to accomplish that feat since eventual major leaguer Jeff Niemann in 2003.

Take A Closer Look At Last Year
Rice had 31 losses in 2017, but a closer look is in order. The Owls always play a tough schedule, and a year ago the team played 27 games against eleven different teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament. In fact if you want to talk about a tough opening stretch, consider each of the Owls’ first nine games to start the year (vs. the likes of Texas, Dallas Baptist, Southeastern Louisiana and TCU) all went on to make the NCAA Tournament. The final margin in eleven of the losses was two runs (or less), and six of the losses were by a single run. The Owls saw a number of star players, including MLB draft pick Tristan Gray, Jackson Parthasarathy, Ricardo Salinas and Josh Pettitte, all sidelined at various points during the season.

Active Hitting Streaks...Yes, Hitting Streaks
Because the NCAA includes the end of the previous season when compiling hitting streaks, Dominic DiCaprio enters Friday’s opener hitting safely in eight-consecutive games. Addison Moss has a three-game hitting streak.

DiCaprio & Proctor Named To Bragan Slugger Award Watch List
Both Ford Proctor and Dominic DiCaprio have been named to the initial watch list for the 2018 Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award... From its headquarters in the DFW Metroplex, the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation has combined a passion for baseball and providing youngsters with the incentive and opportunity to pursue a college education for more than 25 years. Starting in 2017, one position player from a Division I baseball school in Texas will be presented with the Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award -- based on performance at the plate, academics and personal integrity. The winner of the award will be announced in June and honored at a gala in the fall... DiCaprio, now a junior, was one of four finalists for the same award a year ago. The Coral Springs, Fla., native started 63 of the team’s 64 games, including 58 times behind the plate. DiCaprio led the team in batting average (.366) and on-base percentage (.438), and was second on the squad in hits (87) and RBI (49). He helped carry the team in the second half of last season, hitting .385 over the final 32 games... Proctor was a fixture in the lineup last season, starting all 64 games at shortstop and playing all 553.2 innings at shortstop. He led the Owls in runs scored (58) and walks (39) and was second on the team with 19 doubles. The standout from Beaumont collected two or more hits in a game 17 times, including a career-high tying three hits in a game seven different times.

Preseason C-USA Accolades
IRVING, Texas – The Owl trio of Matt Canterino, Dominic DiCaprio and Ford Proctor were all tabbed for preseason honors in the annual Conference USA head coaches’ poll, the C-USA office announced on Jan. 24... After sensational individual seasons in 2017, the Owls’ veteran standouts have the full attention of the 12 C-USA head coaches. Three players are the most selections from one team, with Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss also placing a trio on the league’s 14-player preseason squad. As a team, the C-USA coaches collectively picked Rice to finish second in the 2018 regular season race behind defending regular season champ Southern Miss. The Owls defeated the Golden Eagles for the 2017 C-USA tournament crown to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

(as selected by C-USA’s head coaches)

P - Matt Canterino, So., Rice
P - Nick MacDonald, So., FIU
P - Jake Miednik, Sr., Florida Atlantic
RP - Nick Sandlin, Jr., Southern Miss
C - Dominic DiCaprio, Jr., Rice
IF - Bryan Arias, Jr., UTSA
IF - Tyler Frank, Jr., Florida Atlantic
IF - Ford Proctor, Jr., Rice
IF - Vinny Pasquantino, So., Old Dominion
OF - Kyle Battle, So., Old Dominion
OF - Mason Irby, Sr., Southern Miss
OF - David Miranda, Sr., Florida Atlantic
OF - Matt Wallner, So., Southern Miss
DH/UT - Aaron Aucker, Sr., Middle Tennessee

Matt Wallner, Southern Miss (Sophomore, OF/P)

Nick Sandlin, Southern Miss (Junior, RHP)

1. Southern Miss (11)
2. Rice (1)
3. Florida Atlantic
4. Old Dominion
5. FIU
6. Charlotte
7. Louisiana Tech
9. Middle Tennessee
10. Marshall
11. UAB
12. WKU
(first place votes in parentheses)...

Last Season’s Final NCAA RPI: 41
If you have disdain for the politics of the various baseball polls and prefer the cold, hard math of the NCAA’s official Rating Power Index (RPI), then consider that Rice’s final 2017 RPI was No. 41 in the nation. Rice was among four C-USA schools ranked in the top 51 of last season’s final RPI.

New At Reckling Park! Bixby Batting Barn; Upgraded Fan “Roost”
Rice’s Reckling Park, the best place to watch and play a college game, is better than ever this season after its most-recent renovations that benefit both the student-athletes and fans. In the on-going commitment to player development, the enclosed Bixby Batting Barn down the right-field line has been upgraded with expansion and remodeling. The final phase of the upgrade is the installment of large color banners showcasing the program’s 37 former Owls who have gone on to play in the major leagues. The true-blue fans meanwhile will be sure to flock to the permanent new ‘Roost’ on the first base side for in-game hospitality. The fully-air conditioned facility features its own restrooms, lobby and service area, as well as a tiered outdoor patio that is close to the action but safe with newly installed netting.

Rice Owls On The Coaching Staff
There are two former Rice Owls on Wayne Graham’s 2018 coaching staff. Rice graduate and two-time Texas High School Baseball Coach of the Year John Pope (Jones College 1990) is in his second season as an assistant coach at his alma mater. He played his final two collegiate seasons at Rice in 1988 and 1989 and went on to log 19 years of coaching in the high school ranks in the greater Houston area. Former major leaguer and 2003 Rice National Champion Paul Janish joined the Owls’ baseball staff as an assistant coach in August of 2017. Janish (Wiess College) played professionally the last 13 years with nine seasons in the major leagues, most recently in 2017 with the Baltimore Orioles... “It is a unique challenge to be a student-athlete at Rice,” coach Graham explained. “I like having former Rice players on the coaching staff who have already been through the experience. It is important our players are able to relate to the staff in that way.”

Rookie Ball!
There are some Rice newcomers to keep an eye on in 2018. Third baseman Braden Comeaux joins the Owls as a sophomore transfer from LSU-Eunice, the No. 2 junior college program in the nation. Comeaux started 55 games for the Bengals primarily at shortstop, where he batted .377 with 53 runs scored, 49 RBI, a .447 on-base percentage and 30 stolen bases. True freshman second baseman Trei Cruz is a highly honored switch-hitting prep standout from nearby Episcopal High School who was selected in the 33rd round of the 2017 Major League Draft by the hometown Astros. Cruz is a Rice University legacy player as his father, Jose Cruz Jr. (1993-1995), and uncle, Enrique Cruz (2001-2003) both played for coach Graham.

21 Conference Titles In The Last 22 Years
After one year away Rice reclaimed a conference championship in 2017 by winning the C-USA Tournament title in Biloxi, Miss. From 1996 to 2015 the Owls had won or shared a total of 20-straight conference championships (including either regular season and/or conference tournament titles). The streak covered membership in three different leagues beginning with the Southwest Conference (1996), to nine seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1997-2005) and now 11 C-USA titles from 2006-2017. Here is a closer look at Rice’s title run the last 22 years:
Year    Conf.    Regular Season    Conf. Tourney
2017    C-USA    6th    1st
2016    C-USA    4th    2nd
2015    C-USA    1st    tied 7th
2014    C-USA    1st    1st
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

Last Time Out: Owls Fall At LSU In NCAA Regional
BATON ROUGE, La. – The Rice baseball team battled all the way to the end, loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning, but No. 2 ranked LSU held strong for a 5-0 win over the Owls in front of 10,639 raucous fans at Alex Box Stadium last June in Baton Rouge, La.... With the loss the 2017 Rice baseball season has come to an end. The Owls finished with a winning 33-31 record after the team began the year with a 7-19 ledger and was 13-25 in mid-April. LSU improved to (then) 46-17... Playing as the visiting team at their own home venue, LSU opportunistically took advantage of two Rice fielding errors for three unearned runs in the top of the second inning. The Tigers collected three hits in the frame but the Owls could have been out of the inning before damage on the scoreboard... LSU scored a run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the third before adding another in the fourth without a base hit, stretching the margin to 5-0. Without the early unearned runs the score still felt like only a 2-0 LSU lead. Make no mistake, Rice 1) needed to corral the Tiger hitters and 2) get something going on the offense side as LSU starting pitcher Eric Walker was settling in with a sensational outing... Rice sophomore right-hander Jackson Parthasarathy stepped up to answer the first challenge. The Austin, Texas, native delivered his best outing of his young career on one of the college game’s biggest stages. Entering the game in the top of the fourth, Parthasarathy retired 13 in row during one stretch. He went on to fire 5.2 innings of one-hit scoreless relief, striking out four and without issuing any walks... The Owl offense meanwhile was able to get base hits in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, but not string together consecutive hits. Finally, in the bottom of the ninth, the Blue & Gray made one final push to extend the season one more day... Dane Myers and Dominic DiCaprio singled and Andrew Dunlap drew his 18th walk of the season with one away to load the bases. LSU, however, worked out of the danger to preserve the 5-0 final score... If you followed Rice baseball all season, it is perhaps not too far off to see aspects of this particular game as a metaphor for much of the season itself: A good Owl team gave away a little too much early-on, but still fought and wouldn’t go away, and surely had the opponents’ full attention all the way to the end... In meeting with a sizeable media contingent afterward Rice head coach Wayne Graham, now with 26 complete seasons at Rice and 37 overall as a collegiate head coach, tipped his cap to the Regional winner. He also liked what he saw of how his Owls fought, and that the team will have to be ready to defend its conference title 2018... “Obviously, LSU had great pitching and they had a great day on defense,” coach Graham said. “I thought our guys competed well. (Rice was) a little tired (playing two games on the day). I’m really proud of our guys and their effort,” he said. “We hung in there tonight. Another couple of hits and it could’ve been a close game, but they never quit fighting, as evidenced by that last inning. We got this far when a lot of other teams did not,” Graham added. “We had a good year.”

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 19 years. Here’s a closer look at the country’s winningest programs from 1999-2017 (note: this listing will not be updated to include games played in 2018):
Team    Years    Wins    Loses    Ties    PCT
Florida State    19    922    344    1    .728
Rice    19    870    357    0    .709
North Carolina    19    846    360    1    .701
LSU    19    859    374    6    .696
South Carolina    19    861    380    0    .694
Cal St. Fullerton    19    814    371    0    .687
Coastal Carolina    19    806    368    1    .686
Miami (Fla.)    19    813    371    3    .686
Oral Roberts    19    776    360    0    .683
Texas    19    811    397    1    .671
Arizona State    19    731    367    2    .665
Virginia    19    765    393    3    .660
Georgia Tech    19    773    405    1    .656
Oregon State    19    715    381    1    .652
TCU    19    766    411    0    .651
Florida    19    789    426    2    .649
Louisville    19    757    412    1    .647
Clemson    19    795    433    1    .647
Nebraska    19    738    409    3    .643
Stanford    19    732    411    2    .640
Florida Atlantic    19    725    410    2    .639
Texas A&M    19    759    431    3    .637
Kent State    19    712    405    0    .637
Dallas Baptist    12    451    257    0    .637
East Carolina    19    729    420    4    .634
Oklahoma St.    19    724    424    0    .631
Southern Miss    19    727    426    1    .630
Tulane    19    726    429    2    .628
Col. of Charleston    19    704    418    2    .627
Vanderbilt    19    737    439    1    .627
Louisiana    19    724    437    2    .623
St. John’s    19    669    408    3    .621
Ole Miss    19    726    448    1    .618
Arkansas    19    723    453    0    .615





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