Rice Baseball Plays First Weekend Road Series Starting Friday at Undefeated Arizona
The Rice baseball team, 3-2 and ranked as high as No. 12 in the nation, plays Pac-12 foe Arizona in its first weekend road series of the season
beginning on Friday (Feb. 20). Start times against the undefeated Wildcats (5-0) are set for 4 pm, 1 pm and noon (all Central Time). Each of the games is scheduled for a live broadcast on the Pac-12 Network from Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Ariz.
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 back for his seventh season as the regular voice of the Owls, but it's fellow Rice Athletics broadcaster Alex Del Barrio who has the call this weekend at Arizona.
Follow The Tweeting Rice Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceOwlsBSB while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceOwlsdotcom.
Live Stats On On-Line
Links to live play-by-play text and statistics from every game are posted on RiceOwls.com. Look for the Live Stats links on the Rice Athletics front page, the weekly series preview, the baseball schedule page.
National Rankings Update Owls Move Into Top 12
Rice is nationally-ranked in a host of different college baseball polls. The Owls are now No. 12 in the nation according to the D1Baseball.com. Here's a closer look at some of the latest national rankings, and changes from the preseason (as available at press time):
Poll Current Preseason
D1Baseball.com 12 13
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 13 22
CollegeBaseballDaily.com 13 --
College Sports Madness 13 16
NCBWA 14 15
Baseball America 15 15
PerfectGame.com 20 21
USA Today/ESPN (tba) 17
High RPI: No. 14 In 2014
If you have disdain for the politics of the various baseball polls and prefer the cold, hard math of the NCAA's Rating Power Index (RPI), you'll have to wait a little longer. The NCAA is not scheduled to release the updated RPI for a few weeks yet. A year ago the Owls had the No. 14 RPI in the nation.
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 2015 season is, however, only the Owls' 99th 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 1,949 - 1,530 - 9.
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 24th season at Rice. The 2015 campaign marks his 35th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,042-422 with the Owls (622-156 at home, 323-205 on the road and 97-61 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .712, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .712 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 115 games in a single year... Graham's record vs. this weekend's opponent is: 2-2 vs Arizona... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2014, making 20-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. 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 and 2014, 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 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; tenth year), Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; fourth year) and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; third year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Shepherd coaches at first.
1,615 Wins A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,042 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,616 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,616-534 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.
Rice Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham announced Rice's probable starting pitchers for the Texas series as junior right-hander Kevin McCanna (0-0, 0.00) on Friday night, followed by junior left-hander Blake Fox (1-0, 6.00) on Saturday. Sunday's pronanle starter will be announced by coach Graham at a later time.
Kevin McCanna started on Opening Day one week ago against the No. 6 team in the country and fanned eight in 5.0 innings of work in a no-decision. He is a veteran with 34 appearances in his collegiate career, including 18 starting assignments. A year ago McCanna finished second on the team, and eighth in Conference USA, in both victories (8) and innings pitched (93.2). He pitched into the seventh inning in 7-of-12 starts, with one of the early departures at 6.0 innings vs. Purdue after the Owls had built a comfortable 20-3 lead. The Woodlands, Texas, native averaged 6.2 innings and held opponents to a .247 batting average as a starter. McCanna also averaged a 6.3 strikeouts per 9.0 innings and maintained a 2.7-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He began 2014 as the "Sunday" pitcher in the weekend rotation (in addition to four relief appearances and one midweek start), before being promoted to a new "Friday night" role for the remainder of the year. McCanna thrived as the series-opening pitcher, winning 5-of-7 outings while maintaining a steady 1.76 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP in 51.0 innings. He was the opening pitcher in the C-USA Tournament and held heavy-hitting FIU to a pair of runs over 7.1 innings. The righty then returned just four days later to pitch another 4.0 frames in relief in the Championship Final against a UTSA squad that defeated him in the regular season. The former Highlander from The Woodlands High School had a good case to be named to the league's all-tournament team, going 2-0 with a composite 2.38 ERA for 11.1 total innings (but was somehow overlooked by the voting attending members of the media). McCanna started the Owls' opening game of the NCAA Regional against Atlantic 10 Conference champion George Mason, where he allowed just one earned run on three hits with five strikeouts over 7.1 innings in a no-decision. He fired a complete game, 9.0 inning shutout in the opener of a key C-USA series against league runner-up UAB, propelling his team to a three-game sweep of the Blazers. It's worth noting that with the sweep the Owls went on to win the C-USA regular season crown over that same UAB team by exactly three games. It's equally notable the 9-inning gem was not McCanna's longest outing of the season. Rice has had dozens and dozens of complete games pitched the last few years, but in a March 8 start against eventual NCAA Tournament-bound Old Dominion, McCanna went 9.1 innings for the longest outing by an Owl pitcher in more than a decade.
A host of news organizations have a preseason All-America team leading up to the 2015 campaign, and Blake Fox is on just about every one of them. The Owls' junior left-hander is undefeated in his Rice career, a perfect record that is now 19-0 after defeating No. 6 Texas at home last weekend. His unblemished record in a total of 36 appearances dating back to his freshman season of 2013. One of three finalists for the 2014 National Pitcher of the Year by the College Baseball Hall of Fame, Fox responded to his new role in the weekend rotation with aplomb - winning 12-of-15 "Saturday starts" while maintaining a steady 1.46 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He was the first Owl to win 12 games in a single season since 2006. The former prep standout from nearby Episcopal HS finished fifth in the nation, and led C-USA, in victories. Fox was 13th in Division I, and second in the league, in ERA. Fox also ranked among the C-USA leaders in starts (third, 15), hits-per-9 innings (9th, 7.57), strikeouts (11th, 69) and WHIP (11th). His wins were over eventual College World Series participant TCU at Minute Maid Park, nationally ranked Stanford and FIU on the road, Southern Miss, East Carolina, UTSA, FAU, Tulane, LA Tech, Purdue and Middle Tennessee (twice). He pitched into the seventh inning in 14-of-15 starts, with the lone exception being 5.1 innings against Purdue where the Owls had already built a 7-1 advantage by the 6th (and went on to win 9-1). Fox went a career-long 8.1 innings on the road at Tulane where he tied a career-best with eight strikeouts. He held all opponents to a .236 batting average and maintained a 2.6-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. In a preseason poll of the 12 C-USA head coaches, Fox was named the 2015 C-USA Pitcher of Year. Pitching was only part of the story, however. Fox is a versatile enough athlete that in 2014 he made seven additional appearances either as a first baseman, designated hitter or pinch hitter (against right-handed pitching).
Previous Outing: Owls Top Crosstown Foe Houston Baptist
HOUSTON - Senior John Clay Reeves' two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning broke a 2-2 deadlock and propelled the Rice baseball team to a 5-2 home victory over crosstown foe Houston Baptist Tuesday evening at Reckling Park. Reeves, the Conference USA preseason player of the year on a poll of league's head coaches, singled and scored in the bottom of the second inning for a 1-0 advantage. Undefeated HBU would not go away so easily and battled back to take the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth... The Owls tied the score, 2-2, in the fifth. Kirby Taylor drew a leadoff walk and moved to scoring position on Tristan Gray's sacrifice bunt. Taylor hustled to third on a fly to right and scored on an RBI single by Ryan Chandler... The crosstown-contest was deadlocked until the bottom of the eighth. Leon Byrd led off with a double to the gap in right-center. Reeves followed and connected on an 0-1 pitch for his second two-run homer of the season to left field. The round-tripper put Rice in front 4-2, but the Owls weren't quite finished. Three-straight two-out singles by Taylor, Gray and Kopycinski plated a fifth and final run... "J.C.'s a good hitter," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "We have to have his bat in the lineup, there's no question about that. Our hitting overall has been off to a good start."... The Owls (3-2 overall) posted 11 hits on the night, including three for extra bases. It was the team's fifth-straight game with double-digits hits to open the season. The Rice pitchers meanwhile notched double-digit strikeouts for a second-straight game and a third time overall... True freshman Willy Amador made his first collegiate start on the mound and struck out five in 3.1 innings. Fellow freshman Glenn Otto followed and fanned five more in 4.1 frames. Veteran right-hander Matt Ditman pitched the final 1.1 scoreless innings and had one strikeout on the way to his first win of the season... HBU is now 3-1 on the season.
Big Opening Series
Rice baseball has a long-history of testing itself with some tough, but very popular, season-opening series - like last weekend vs Texas. The average attendance of that four-game series (4,297) crushed the previous best opening weekend attendance average in Reckling Park history from two years ago. Here's how some other opening weekends have added-up. (Note that many of the previous opening weekends were in a tournament format where the Owls played against three different opponents on consecutive days.)
Year 1st Weekend (Average)
2015 *17,191 (4,297)
2013 12,237 (4,079)
2011 12,182 (4,060)
2009 10,950 (3,650)
2004 10,117 (3,372)
2012 9,615 (3,205)
2010 9,198 (3,066)
Did You Know?
The Owls swept Saturday's doubleheader vs. No. 6 ranked Texas to become the first C-USA team to post two wins against a Top 10 team in the same day since Rice beat No. 7 Cal State Fullerton twice on March 4, 2006. That 2006 Owl team went on to reach the College World Series.
This & That
For the weekend Rice out-hit Texas .343 to .228, and also outscored the Longhorns by a combined run total of 19-18... Freshman RHP Ricardo Salinas started the second game of the Saturday double-header vs. No. 6 Texas and fired a team-long 7.1 innings. He allowed just two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four... Junior RHP Austin Orewiler did not earn a decision to show for a sterling 6.2 innings in his first career start. He led all Owl pitchers over the weekend with a career-high 10 strikeouts... Redshirt junior RHP Jordan Stephens made his return to the mound after being sidelined most of last season. Stephens recorded a strikeout in one scoreless inning in which he threw 12 pitches... Senior OF/DH Kirby Taylor is a combined 11-for-17 (.647) with three doubles for a .824 slugging percentage, while also driving in a total of four runs... True freshman Ryan Chandler made a splash in his first week at the Division I level. The rookie centerfielder has batted leadoff where he has hit a combined .333 (5-for-18) with five runs scored, a double and a stolen base... Not only did the Owls bat around in Saturday's first game of the double-header, the Blue & Gray hit for the cycle as a team.
Hitting Streaks Carrying Over
Because the NCAA recognizes hitting streaks carried-over from one college season to the next, senior Kirby Taylor has a nine-game hitting streak.
Conference Titles Streak Now At 19-Straight
Rice has won or shared a total of 19-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 now nine C-USA titles in as many years. The Owls won the 2014 C-USA regular season title by a comfortable three-game margin, then completed the title sweep by taking the league tournament last in Hattiesburg, Miss. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 19 years:
Year Conf. Regular Season Conf. Tourney
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
National Postseason Streak At 20-Straight
Rice baseball's 20-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the nation's fourth-longest active streak. In 2014 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 42nd-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (37) and Cal State Fullerton (23). Rice's 20-straight NCAA Tournament bids is the sixth-longest postseason streak in Division I baseball history.
20-Straight 40-Win Seasons
Rice has clinched 20-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 19 of the last 20 years.
Take A Closer Look At Last Year
Rice had 20 losses in 2014, but a closer look is in order. More than one-third of the losses (7) were to teams that were nationally-ranked when the Owls faced them. Nine of the 20 losses were by a single run - of which three were in extra innings and another was in the bottom of the ninth. The final margin in 13 of the losses was two runs (or less). Also consider that the Owls saw a number of last season's star players, including Jordan Stephens, Zech Lemond, Shane Hoelscher, Leon Byrd and John Clay Reeves, all sidelined at various points during the season.
Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice's 2015 W-L records while wearing the various uniforms is as follows:
0-1 in all-white,
3-0 in the home alternate-1 (`birds'),
0-1 in the home alternate-2 (`R'),
0-0 in all-gray,
0-0 in blue tops with white pants,
0-0 in blue tops with gray pants,
0-0 in the road alternate (`birds-gray').
The 2015 Conference USA Favorites
IRVING, Texas - With three preseason all-conference players, including the Owl battery of Blake Fox and John Clay Reeves as the respective 2015 Preseason Pitcher and Player of the Year, the Rice baseball team was picked to finish first in the league in the annual Conference USA head coaches' poll. All twelve of the C-USA head coaches voted Rice as the preseason favorite for 2015. Since joining the conference in 2006 the Owls have been the league favorite every year there has been a poll (officially nine-of-the-last-ten years as there was no coaches poll conducted in 2010). This season Owls return five offensive starters in the batting order and a host of veteran pitchers who helped lead last year's squad to a 42-20 overall record, the C-USA regular season and tournament titles, and to a home NCAA Regional at Reckling Park. Rice's veteran standouts, including Fox (Jr., LHP), Reeves (Sr., C), and fellow C-USA preseason honoree Matt Ditman (Jr., RHP), all have the full attention of the C-USA head coaches.
2015 PRESEASON BASEBALL AWARDS (selected by C-USA's head coaches)
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Rice (12)
3. Old Dominion
4. Southern Miss
6. Florida Atlantic
8. Middle Tennessee
12. Louisiana Tech
(first place votes in parentheses)
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
John Clay Reeves, Rice (Senior, C)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Blake Fox, Rice (Junior, Left-hander)
PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
P Blake Fox Jr. Rice
P Alex Luna Sr. UAB
P Chris Mourelle So. FIU
RP Matt Ditman Jr. Rice
C John Clay Reeves Sr. Rice
IF Josh Anderson Sr. FIU
IF Ryan Church Sr. WKU
IF P.J. Higgins Jr. Old Dominion
IF Taylor Love Jr. Louisiana Tech
IF Stephen Kerr So. Florida Atlantic
OF Jared Allen Sr. Middle Tennessee
OF Brendon Sanger Jr. Florida Atlantic
OF Nick Walker So. Old Dominion
DH/UT Matt Durst Sr. Southern Miss)
Nine (9) Televised Games In Regular Season
The people in the business of selecting games for television broadcasts have a good idea of the teams the public want to see. So far nine Rice regular season games are slated for a TV broadcast and that number could still grow over the course of the year, not including a possible TV appearance in the championship final of the C-USA Tournament in late May. Here is Rice's "starting nine" in the upcoming TV lineup:
Feb. 20 (Fri.) at Arizona, PAC-12 Network;
Feb. 21 (Sat.) at Arizona, PAC-12 Network
Feb. 22 (Sun.) at Arizona, PAC-12 Network
Mar. 3 (Tues.) at TCU, FOXSSW+
Mar. 27 (Fri.) vs. Southern Miss, FOX Sports 1;
Apr. 18 (Sat.) vs. UTSA, ASN
Apr. 26 (Sun.) at Western Kentucky, ASN
May 9 (Sat.) at Florida Atlantic, ASN
May 16 (Sat.) vs. FIU, FOX Sports Net
Owls Ink Eight In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program has signed eleven high school standouts in the early period who will join the team for the 2016 season. The list of newest Owls includes: Dominic DiCaprio, Zachary Esquivel, Kendal Jefferies, Gavin Johnson, Jackson Parthasarathy, Jay Proctor, Braden Rollins, Brent Schwarz, Jacob Simon, Cody Staab, and Lucas Wakamatsu. The group consists of four pitchers, two catchers, two infielders, an outfielder and two 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. Eight are from Texas and two 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 16 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999 to 2014 (this does NOT include any games played in 2015):
Team Years Wins Loses Ties PCT
Florida State 16 791 278 1 .740
Rice 16 762 280 0 .731
North Carolina 16 729 301 1 .708
South Carolina 16 748 312 0 .706
Cal St. Fullerton 16 700 299 0 .701
Texas 16 717 314 1 .695
Arizona State 16 637 289 2 .688
LSU 16 708 321 6 .687
Coastal Carolina 16 675 310 0 .685
Miami (Fla.) 16 682 313 3 .685
Oral Roberts 16 654 307 0 .681
Georgia Tech 16 676 329 1 .672
Wichita State 16 703 357 0 .663
Virginia 16 640 331 3 .659
Stanford 16 635 340 2 .651
Clemson 16 677 363 1 .651
Nebraska 16 632 342 2 .649
East Carolina 16 619 347 3 .640
Tulane 16 623 352 2 .639
Southern 16 474 272 0 .635
Florida Atlantic 16 609 351 1 .634
C. of Charleston 16 600 346 1 .634
Oregon State 16 585 338 0 .634
Oklahoma State 16 613 355 0 .633
TCU 16 616 360 0 .631
Kent State 16 600 351 0 .631
Florida 16 633 373 2 .629
Notre Dame 16 596 353 5 .627
Mississippi 16 621 376 1 .623
Louisville 16 607 368 1 .622
Texas A&M 16 619 378 3 .621
Ohio State 16 587 359 1 .620
Vanderbilt 16 607 374 0 .619
UL-Lafayette 16 604 372 1 .619
Solid In C-USA Regular Season
Since its first Conference USA baseball campaign in the spring of 2006, Rice's regular-season record in C-USA league games is 169-53 (.761).
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' 2014 fall training was no exception. Newcomers like true freshmen Ricardo Salinas and Ryan Chandler turned in sound and solid outings to give themselves a possible wealth of playing time this spring. Salinas maintained a 2.35 ERA in 23.0 fall innings while striking out 17 with a .227 opponents' batting average. Chandler, a local prep star from Strake Jesuit, batted .294 while playing sensational defense in centerfield... Freshman Glenn Otto distinguished himself as a right-handed option on the mound... Junior shortstop Leon Byrd meanwhile showed perhaps the biggest improvement over the last calendar year while batting a team-best .431 with a .608 fall slugging percentage.
The Last Meeting
March 14, 2012