Baseball Opens 2017 Season Friday Night

Feb. 16, 2017

Watch the game live on The Longhorn Network
Link here for cable providers that carry the Longhorn Network. The games are available on the WatchESPN App or ESPN3.com if your cable provider carries The Longhorn Network.

E-mail baseball SID John Sullivan
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LISTEN online (pregame show 15 min. before start)
PDF of Rice's pregame release

Feb. 17 (Fri.) 6:30 pm; Rice at Texas
Watch Live
Live Stats (activates at game time)

Feb. 18 (Sat.) 3 pm; Rice at Texas Game 1 DH
Feb. 18 (Sat.) time tba; Rice at Texas Game 2 DH
Feb. 19 (Sun.) 12 Noon; Rice at Texas
NOTE - Sunday's new 12 Noon start is a change from some earlier listings.

Let The Games Begin!
Rice Baseball Opens 2017 Season Friday at Texas
The Rice baseball team, ranked as high as No. 21 in the nation heading into the 2017 campaign, plays its season-opener on Friday (Feb. 17) on the road against longtime rival Texas. The Owls and Longhorns are scheduled for a four-game weekend series at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin. Start time for the season-opener is set for 6:30 pm. Saturday's action features a double-header, where game one of the twinbill is set for 3 pm. Sunday's series finale is scheduled for a NEW 12 NOON first pitch.

Watch The Weekend Action On The Longhorn Network
Every game of the Rice-Texas series is scheduled to be broadcast on The Longhorn Network. Broadcasters Lowell Galindo (play-by-play) and former Major League stars Keith Moreland and Greg Swindell have the LHN call this weekend. Fans with cable providers that carry the Longhorn Network can also watch the games via the WatchESPN App or ESPN3.com.

Play-By-Play Audio On The Web
Every Rice baseball game is scheduled for a live audio broadcast on the Internet at RiceOwls.com. Tune-in to the broadcast's pregame show 15 minutes before first pitch. J.P. Heath is in his ninth season as the voice of the Owls. Fellow Rice broadcaster Alex Del Barrio is also scheduled to do selected baseball games this season.

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.

National Rankings Update • Five Polls Have Rice In Top 25
Here's a closer look at some of the national preseason rankings, as well as Rice's spot in the same poll from the end of last season:
Organization         Current    2016
PerfectGame.com           21     NR
D1Baseball.com            23     20
College Baseball Central  23     NR
NCBWA                     24     26
USA Today/ESPN            25     RV
Collegiate Baseball       27     30
College Sports Madness    27     22
Baseball America          NR     NR

Last Season's Final NCAA RPI Was No. 24
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 2016 RPI was No. 24 in the nation. Rice was among four C-USA schools ranked in the top 33 of last season's final RPI. All four of those league schools easily went on to make the 64-team NCAA Tournament Field.

Head Coach Wayne Graham
Four-time national coach of the year and 2012 College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Graham (Texas, 1970) is in his 26th season at Rice. The 2017 campaign marks his 38th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,114-466 with the Owls (662-171 at home, 349-224 on the road and 101-71 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .705, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .705 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 114 games in a single year... Graham is 26-39 vs. Texas (13-15 at home, 7-17 on the road and 6-7 at neutral sites)... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2016, making 22-straight seasons for Rice to earn an NCAA appearance. The Blue & Gray has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13-14-15-16. 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 and `14... 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 head coaches to have played in the major leagues (N.Y. Mets in 1963, Philadelphia in 1964), Graham is aided by assistant coaches Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; sixth year), John Pope (Rice, 1990, Jones College; 1st year),  and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; fifth year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Shepherd coaches at first.

1,689 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,114 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,689 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,689-579 in a 35-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Season Openers Under Wayne Graham
The Looking sharp out of the gate is nothing new for Rice under Wayne Graham. The Owls are 17-8 in their 25 season-openers under Graham. In the eight times under Graham that Rice has opened its season with a road game, the Blue & Gray is 5-3. There has been only one other time since 2011 when Rice has gone on the road to start a season. In 2014 the Owls began the year at Stanford, and won that opener 10-3. From 2008 to 2010 the Blue & Gray started the year at three different California opponents (Long Beach State, Cal Poly and Stanford). The 2017 opener at Texas marks the first time Rice has began its season in an official road game in the state of Texas since 1998 (playing at Texas State)... Rice is also 20-5 in its respective home-openers under the current head coach.

Possible Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham announced Rice's first two starting pitchers for the Texas series as the right-handed junior tandem of Dane Myers and Ricardo Salinas. The remaining Rice starters will be announced by coach Graham at a later time.

Take A Closer Look At Last Year
Rice had 24 losses in 2016, but a closer look is in order. Rice always plays a tough schedule, and three-fourths of the losses (16) were to quality teams that ended up playing in the NCAA Tournament. Five of the losses were by a single run - of which one was in extra innings and another three slipped away in the ninth. The final margin in nine of the losses was two runs (or less). Also consider that the Owls saw a number of star players, including Charlie Warren, Tristan Gray, Dane Myers, Jackson Parthasarathy and Josh Pettitte, were all sidelined at various points during the season.

National Postseason Streak At 22-Straight, Looking For 23 In 2017
Rice baseball's 22-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the nation's fourth-longest streak in NCAA history. Each of the top four streaks of making the NCAA Tournament are all of the active variety. In 2016 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 44th-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (39) and Cal State Fullerton (25).

Otto & Proctor Headline C-USA Honorees; Rice Tabbed As Favorite
IRVING, Texas -- With the top two individual preseason all-conference honors, including Glenn Otto as the 2017 Preseason Pitcher of the Year and Ford Proctor as the 2017 Preseason Player 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 in January. A total of four Owls were honored overall, the most of any league school... Five of the twelve C-USA head coaches voted Rice as the preseason favorite to help the Owls secure the top spot for 2017. Since joining the conference in 2006 Rice baseball has been the league favorite every year there has been a poll (officially 11-of-the-last-12 years as there was no coaches poll conducted in 2010). This season the Owls return seven offensive starters in the batting order and a host of veteran pitchers who helped lead last year's squad to a 38-24 overall record and to a NCAA Regional appearance. A year ago the Blue & Gray was the last team to be eliminated before the NCAA's Super Regional round... Rice's veteran standouts have the full attention of the C-USA head coaches. Under the direction of head coach Wayne Graham, Rice Baseball has won or shared a conference regular season or tournament title 20 times in the last 21 years. The team has been to the NCAA Tournament 22-straight years, the fourth-longest active streak in the nation... In his debut season of Division I baseball, Ford Proctor started 61 of Rice's 62 games at shortstop, earning C-USA Freshman of the Year honors and multiple Freshman All-America honors. He batted a steady .336 for the full season and was electric in the Owls' run to the final game of the C-USA Tournament, hitting two home runs and totaling seven RBI with a .700 slugging percentage. Proctor ranked among the C-USA leaders in batting average (.336) and hits (75). He finished as high as eighth in the league in on-base percentage (.428) and tied for ninth in walks (34). The Beaumont, Texas, native also led the Owls in RBI (41), slugging (.471) and multiple-hit games (19), tallying a career-high three hits in a game on six different occasions, while hitting safely in 18 consecutive games at one point... Otto posted a sensational season with the Owls in 2016, earning first team All-Conference USA honors as a relief pitcher. The junior right-hander tallied eight saves as well as a 9-2 record in 33 appearances out of the bullpen. He maintained a 2.26 ERA in 71.2 innings and held opposing hitters to a composite .209 batting average. The Spring, Texas, native averaged 9.5 strikeouts per 9.0 innings with a 2.5-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, and was named to the watch list for the national Stopper of the Year Award... Proctor and Otto were joined by junior RHP Ricardo Salinas and senior OF Charlie Warren on the preseason All-Conference USA team, giving Rice a league-high four selections. Salinas grew into a role as a weekend starter last spring, particularly the second half of the season, posting a 9-2 overall record with a 3.39 ERA. He tied for the conference lead in wins with teammate Glenn Otto, while finishing third on the team, and tied for sixth in the league in games started (14). The Houston native ranked seventh in C-USA in opponents' batting average (.226), ninth in ERA, tenth in innings (82.1), and eleventh in strikeouts (64). Warren led the team and finished eighth in Conference USA in batting average at .341. He finished second on the Owls in on-base percentage (.408), and reached base in a team-leading 21-consecutive games during one stretch. He drew at least one walk in 19 different games and tied for second on the team in hits (62) despite being sidelined for four weeks of the season.

2017 PRESEASON BASEBALL AWARDS/POLL
(as selected by C-USA's head coaches)
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Rice (5)
2. Florida Atlantic (4)
3. Southern Miss (3)
4. Old Dominion
5. Louisiana Tech
6. Charlotte
tie. FIU
8. Marshall
9. UAB
10. Middle Tennessee
tie. UTSA
12. WKU
(first place votes in parentheses)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ford Proctor, Rice (Sophomore, IF)

PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Glenn Otto, Rice (Junior, Right-hander)

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
P: Kirk McCarty, Jr., Southern Miss
P: Ricardo Salinas, Jr., Rice
P: Casey Sutton, Sr., Louisiana Tech
RP: Glenn Otto, Jr., Rice
C: Brent Diaz, Jr., Louisiana Tech
IF: Taylor Braley, Jr., Southern Miss
IF: Dylan Burdeaux, Sr., Southern Miss
IF: Brett Netzer, Jr., Charlotte
IF: Ford Proctor, So., Rice
IF: Logan Sherer, Sr., Charlotte
OF: Jesse Baker, Sr., UTSA
OF: T.J. Nichting, Sr., Charlotte
OF: Charlie Warren, Sr., Rice
DH/UT: Jonathan Washam, Sr., Louisiana Tech
DH/UT: Sean Labsan, Sr., Florida Atlantic.

Otto Garners A Host of Preseason All-America Honors
With a steady stream of Preseason All-America honors, Owl junior right-hander Glenn Otto will not have much chance to sneak up on opponents. The list of accolades for he and junior right-hander Ricardo Salinas are as follows:
Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball
First Team
RHP       Glenn Otto

National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association
Second Team
RHP       Glenn Otto
Third Team
RHP       Ricardo Salinas

D1Baseball.com
Third Team
RHP       Glenn Otto, Rice

Golden Spikes Award
RHP       Glenn Otto, Rice

National Stopper of the Year Watch List
RHP       Glenn Otto, Rice

Previous Game: Owls Defeat Cuban Professional Team Last Fall
ARTEMISA, Cuba - Technically, Rice baseball's 4-0 win in Cuba last November is the team's most-recent outing!... The Owls were originally scheduled to play five exhibition games on its educational and cultural tour of the previously `closed' island nation last November, but the death of longtime lead Fidel Castro (when the team was in Havana) forced a cancellation of the four remaining games. The Owl players, however, continued to make the rest of its itinerary destinations at various landmarks and museums... On Nov. 25, the Rice pitching duo of Dane Myers and Addison Moss combined to hold Cuban League foe Artemisa to no runs on just four hits when the Owls claimed a 4-0 overseas victory in its first and only game on the tour... Myers was sound and solid scattering two singles and two walks with five strikeouts over 6.0 innings against the older and professional Cuban players. The junior from Katy, Texas, retired seven of the first eight batters he faced. When the first Artemisa batter reached on a free pass, the Cazadores' dangerous slugging first-baseman Juan Rodriguez, Myers picked him off first with crafty move that seemed to spark Rice on offensive side in the top of the very next inning... Dayne Wunderlich was hit by a pitch and tried to hustle to third on Myers' one-out single into centerfield. Wunderlich was retired on a strong, veteran throw by Yuan Moreno, but Myers alertly dashed up to second on the play to keep an runner in scoring position. Sophomore Ford Proctor followed with an RBI single into left and los Buhos (the Owls) were on the board 1-0... Rice was back on the offensive when senior Charlie Warren led off the fifth with a hit to left center and a steal of second base. He went to third on a Wunderlich single and scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead... After the traditional Cuban sixth-inning stretch, the Owls added a little more insurance in the seventh. Proctor stroked a two-out double to left and with first base open Artemisa elected to intentionally walk Dominic DiCaprio. Ryan Chandler singled-home Proctor, and a wild throw from the outfield allowed DiCaprio to come home and stretch the margin to 4-0... That was now proving to be more than enough room. True freshman Addison Moss started the game at first base and switched positions in the field with Myers after the sixth. The right-hander from Conroe, Texas, kept the shutout intact and earned a save with 3.0 innings of two-hit relief where he allowed two singles and without any walks and a strikeout... "The experience of coming here has already been so beneficial, the game today was just icing on the cake," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham, who was making his return to Cuba since his minor league playing season at AAA Buffalo in 1960. "We've just been treated so well I know the players will remember this trip and this particular game very fondly. After the big (pregame) ceremony they had and all, we were maybe a little nervous at the very start," Graham explained. "When we just relaxed and started playing, we played really well. We finished with 11 hits and Dane was sensational like we know he can be."... Proctor and Wunderlich paced the Owls with three-hits each, and Myers had two hits in addition to his win on the mound.

New Kid On The Block
Houston area native Darryn Sheppard joined the Rice baseball program in January 2017 as a graduate student of Global Affairs. He played the 2014-2016 seasons at Baylor and graduated with a degree in Business Administration. Sheppard owns one year of collegiate eligibility after playing in more than 140 games with 132 Division I starts. He slugged 14 career home runs with 76 runs scored, 63 RBI and 12 steals in three seasons as an outfielder/first baseman in the Big 12 Conference. His solid 2016 season featured a .294 batting average, a .480 slugging percentage and a team-leading eight home runs in 52 starts. The Sugar Land, Texas, native clubbed two homers in a Big 12 road game at Oklahoma last season and led the Bears with 11 games with two or more RBI. He finished third on the squad with 15 multi-hit games in 2016, and was the only Bear to record five hits in a single game.

Owls Ink Nine In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program has signed nine high school standouts in the early period who will join the team for the 2018 season. The list of newest Owls includes Dane Acker, Luis Aviles, Justin Collins, Braden Comeaux, Dominic Cox, Trei Cruz, Joshua Larzabal, Parker Osburn and Kelby Weyler. The group consists of two multi-position players who are versatile enough to contribute as both a pitcher and position player/hitter. There are three infielders and three catchers. All are from the high school ranks. Seven are from Texas and five are from the greater Houston area.

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 18 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999-2016 (note: this listing will not be updated to include games played in 2017):
Team              Years   Wins  Loses  Ties    PCT
Florida St.          18    876    321    1    .732
Rice                 18    837    326    0    .720
South Carolina       18    826    355    0    .699
North Carolina       18    797    346    1    .697
LSU                  18    807    354    6    .694
Miami (Fla.)         18    782    344    3    .694
Cal St. Fullerton    18    775    347    0    .691
Coastal Carolina     18    769    349    0    .688
Oral Roberts         18    733    344    0    .681
Arizona St.          18    708    335    2    .678
Texas                18    772    373    1    .674
Georgia Tech         18    746    377    1    .664
Virginia             18    722    377    3    .657
Clemson              18    753    412    1    .646
TCU                  18    716    393    0    .646
Nebraska             18    703    387    2    .645
Florida              18    737    407    2    .644
East Carolina        18    697    392    4    .640
Florida Atlantic     18    690    389    1    .639
Louisville           18    704    400    1    .638
Texas A&M            18    718    408    3    .637
Oregon State         18    659    375    1    .637
Tulane               18    699    398    2    .637
Oklahoma State       18    694    397    0    .636
Stanford             18    690    395    2    .636
Col. of Charleston   18    676    387    2    .636
Kent State           18    675    387    0    .636
Dallas Baptist       11    409    236    0    .634
Vanderbilt           18    701    414    0    .629
Ohio State           18    666    399    2    .625
UL-Lafayette         18    689    416    1    .623
Southern Miss.       18    677    410    1    .623

Legends of the Fall
Registering consistent off-season performances in the program's fall training period is still one of the best ways to catch a coach's attention in college baseball, and the Owls' 2016 fall training was no exception. Newcomers like true freshmen Mackenzie Mueller and Brad Gneiting turned in sound and solid outings to give themselves a possible wealth of playing time this spring. Gneiting was a tough out batting .302 from the left side and finishing tied for second on the squad in steals... The right-handed hitting Mueller was third on the team in homers and RBI... Versatile sophomore Kendal Jefferies meanwhile showed big improvement as a right-handed pitcher, as did sophomore left-hander Evan Kravetz.

All Good Things - Rice's Conf. Titles Streak Ends at 20-Straight
Rice saw it's streak of winning 20-straight conference titles come to an end in 2016. The Owls had won or shared a total of 20-straight conference championships (including either regular season and/or conference tournament titles) dating back to 1996. 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 ten C-USA titles from 2006-2015. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 21 years:
Year    Conf.    Regular Season    Conf. Tourney
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




 

 

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