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Owls Begin Six-Game Homestand Tuesday vs. Texas State

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Feb. 17, 2014

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Feb. 18 (Tues.) 4:30 pm; Texas State at Rice
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Feb. 19 (Wed.) 4:30 pm; Houston at Rice
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Baseball Team Hosts Texas State Tuesday, Houston Wednesday, To Begin Six-Game Homestand
The Rice baseball team, 2-1 overall and a consensus Top 20 team in the current national polls, plays its 2014 home-opener on Tuesday (Feb. 18) against longtime foe Texas State. First pitch against the Bobcats (2-1) is slated for 4:30 pm at Reckling Park. The contest is the first of six-straight games at home. The Owls then welcome crosstown rival Houston (3-0) on Wednesday (Feb. 19) at 4:30 pm before a three-game weekend homestand against Big Ten opponent Purdue. Rice closes out the homestand on Feb. 25 against Sam Houston State.

Watch Home Games On OwlVision All Access
Most home games at Reckling Park and all C-USA games, home or away, are slated for a live on-line video broadcast by OwlVision All Access. OwlVision is a subscription-based service which matches the play-by-play audio with a video feed to create a television-like broadcast on the Internet (either live or in an archived format). The service has been growing in popularity the last few years. Information about the service and subscription prices are available at the above links.

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 1,906 - 1,510 - 9.

Follow The Tweeting Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceOwlsBSB while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceOwlsdotcom

National Rankings Update • Owls Ranked As High As No. 11
Rice is ranked among the Top 20 teams in the country in a host of different polls. The Owls climbed to No. 11 in the nation in the latest National
Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) weekly poll. Here's a closer look at the latest national rankings, and changes from the previous week:

Poll This Week Last Week
NCBWA 11 15
Baseball America 15 15
College Sports Madness 15 18
PerfectGame.com 17 17
USA Today/ESPN --- 15
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 17 17

 

 

Head Coach Wayne Graham - 999 and counting!
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 999-401 with the Owls (598-145 at home, 309-199 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. Texas State is 45-10 (31-6 home, 13-4 road, 1-0 neutral) and vs. Houston is 79-27 (43-8 home, 33-19 road, 3-0 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 Shepherd coaches at first base.

1,573 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 999 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,573 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall collegiate record is 1,573-514 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 17-6 in their season-opener under Graham and 19-3 in their home-opener.

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 move of sophomore Leon Byrd, a C-USA All-Freshman and NCAA All-Regional honoree, from centerfield to shortstop. Veteran shortstop Ford Stainback has moved over to second base to take the place of senior/MLB draftee Christian Stringer. Look for the Owl outfield to be possibly 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. Junior John Williamson went 5-for-11 (.455) with a double and a triple and scored three times at Stanford. 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.

Ewing Earns National & C-USA Honor
After leading the Rice baseball team to a season-opening series win at nationally-ranked Stanford (Feb. 14-16), Rice junior Skyler Ewing has earned both national and conference honors. Ewing was named one of eight Louisville Slugger National Players of the Week by Collegiate Baseball Magazine. Conference USA tabbed him as the league's Hitter of the Week. Ewing paced a Rice offensive charge to help the Owls take two-of-three games in a weekend road series at nationally-ranked Stanford. He batted a composite .583 (7-of-12) against Cardinal pitching with a team-high eight RBI. The junior first baseman from Arlington, Texas, knocked two home runs and a double for a 1.167 slugging percentage. He scored two runs, drew a walk and had a sacrifice fly to go along with a .571 on-base percentage. Ewing had steady production, collecting at least two hits and two RBI in all three games. He also played every inning in the field at first base where he was error-free in 20 total chances. UAB's Chase Mallard has been named the C-USA Pitcher of the Week. The senior right-hander fired 7.0 hitless innings with a career-best 13 strikeouts against Tennessee-Martin on Feb. 14.

Previous Outing - Owls Fall Sunday At Stanford
PALO ALTO, Calif. - No. 25 ranked Stanford collected 14 hits off five Rice pitchers on the way to a 12-3 win over the Rice baseball team in Sunday's final game of the season-opening three-game weekend series in Palo Alto, Calif. Rice was able to claim the series over the nationally-ranked foe on the road two-games-to-one. The Owls may not have been able to get head coach Wayne Graham his 1,000th career Division I win on Sunday, but the silver lining is that now the Rice head coach has a chance to reach the milestone during the team's upcoming six-game homestand at Reckling Park. Early in the contest Rice looked like it was on the way to a series-sweep as it was the first team to score for the third time in as many games. In the top of the first senior Shane Hoelscher placed a two-out single to right field to bring up hot-hitting Skyler Ewing. The junior from Arlington, Texas, connected on a pitch for a home run to left-center field and a 2-0 lead. The shot was Ewing's second of the season to give him eight RBI in the opening series of the season. Rice continued the longball theme to start the top of the second inning. Senior Michael Aquino led off with a solo homer to left field to extend the margin to 3-0.The round-tripper was Aquino's first of the season and tenth of his career. Stanford battled back to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth before reaching a final total of 12 runs. The big blows in the fifth were two-run homers by Wayne Taylor and Brett Michael Doran for new 6-3 Cardinal advantage. Stanford added another two-run homer as part of a four-run seventh before a pair of runs in the eighth in a 12-3 final. Rice is now 2-1 on the season. Offensively the Owls tallied eight hits Sunday while leaving six on base.

McDowell To Start Tuesday • Remaining Pitchers TBA
Wayne Graham announced senior right-hander Chase McDowell would start Tuesday against Texas State. Coach Graham will officially announce the week's remaining rotation at a later time. McDowell is one of three Owls with the versatile role of serving as both a hitter and a pitcher. A year ago he finished fourth on the pitching staff in starts (6), fifth in innings (53.0) and sixth in appearances (17). The right-hander from College Station, Texas, held all opposing hitters to a composite .246 batting average. He had almost twice as many relief outings (11) as starts, but compiled more innings as a starter (30.2) than out of the bullpen (22.1). McDowell averaged more than 5.0 innings for each of his six starts in 2013. He caught the coaches' attention after 6.1 innings of shutout relief in the third game of the Hawaii series (Feb. 24) where he held the Rainbows to just a pair of singles on the road. That outing earned him his first start of the season a week later against California, where he was sensational in pitching a five-hit complete game shutout. The veteran blanked the Golden Bears on just 91 pitches without allowing any walks and striking out two. He started and worked into the seventh against future Conference USA opponent UTSA, and pitched into the sixth against longtime opponents Texas State and Sam Houston State. His four pitching wins were recorded over Texas State, UTSA, California and Hawaii.

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 C-USA 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)
6. FIU
7. UTSA
8. Charlotte
9. Middle Tennessee
10. Old Dominion
11. UAB
12. Marshall
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)

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
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).

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.

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, last season 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 and introduced 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 (does NOT include 2014 games):
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

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 Philip Humber signed with the Oakland A's and Paul 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.

GAMEDAY CENTRAL
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