Rice Baseball Returns Home This Week; Owls Host DBU Tuesday Night At Reckling Park
The Rice baseball team, ranked as high as No. 21 in the nation, hosts state foe Dallas Baptist in its home-opener on Tuesday (Feb. 21) at Reckling Park. The Owls (2-2) and Patriots (2-1) are scheduled for a 6:30 pm first pitch... Rice's 2017 home-opener is the start of some extensive Reckling Park action over the next three weeks. Twelve of the Owls' next 14 games through March 14 are slated to be played at Reckling Park.
Watch Games Online Via OwlVision All-Access
Most home games 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). Information about the service and subscription prices are available at RiceOwls.com. Games that have been selected for TV broadcasts can alter the OwlVision availability.
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.
Live Stats On GameTracker
Links to live play-by-play text and statistics from every home game are posted on RiceOwls.com. Look for the GameTracker links on the Rice Athletics front page, the weekly series preview, and the baseball schedule page.
National Rankings Update Fou 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 Last Week
PerfectGame.org 21 21
D1Baseball.com 23 23
Collegiate Baseball 24 27
College Baseball Central 25 23
NCBWA 26 24
USA Today/ESPN tba 25
College Sports Madness NR 27
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.
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.
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 1,116-468 with the Owls (662-171 at home, 351-226 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 17-6 vs. Dallas Baptist (16-5 at home, 1-1 on the road)... 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.
1,691 Wins A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,114 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,691 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,691-579 in a 35-year coaching career that began in 1981.
Home Openers Under Wayne Graham
The Looking sharp in the home-opener is nothing new for Rice under Wayne Graham. The Owls are 20-5 in its respective home-openers under the current head coach.
Possible Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham will officially announce Rice's starting pitchers for this week's games at a later time.
Last Time Out: Owls Thump Texas In Austin, 7-1
AUSTIN -- Sophomore catcher Dominic DiCaprio went 3-for-4 with three RBI, two doubles, a walk and two runs scored while three Owl pitchers combined to hold longtime rival Texas in check as the Rice baseball team claimed a convincing 7-1 road victory over the Longhorns Sunday afternoon at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin... Rice and UT split the season-opening four game set. Both teams come out of the emotion-charged series with identical 2-2 records... For the third-straight time in the series Rice was first on the scoreboard. Sophomore Ford Proctor lined a one-out single into right field. DiCaprio then laced a long two-out double off the wall in left-center, and Proctor hustled around the bases for a 1-0 advantage... Texas used the long ball to tie the game in the fifth. Bret Boswell led off with a solo homer to right-centerfield to make it 1-1, but it would prove to be the only damage as the Blue & Gray soon shifted into high gear... Rice came right back by sending 11 men to the plate in a big five-run inning in the top of the sixth. Ryan Chandler drew a leadoff walk and Proctor singled through the left side. Dane Myers was hit by a pitch to load the bases and DiCaprio followed with his second double of the game off the wall in right-center. True freshman Brad Gneiting doubled home two more runs and sophomore newcomer Robbie Lammons beat a defensive shift with a RBI single into right field that stretched the Rice lead to 6-1... Rice added a final run in the ninth for a season-high seven runs. The Owls finished with nine hits, and the offensive support matched a solid start on the mound by sophomore starter Zach Esquivel. The right-hander finished with a career-long 6.0 innings of work where he allowed just three hits and three walks while striking out five. He was relieved by Evan Kravetz, who struck out two in 2.0 scoreless frames. A six-run lead in the ninth may not be the normal time to see junior reliever Glenn Otto, but the right-hander was razor sharp in his 2017 debut. Otto fanned two in a quick 1-2-3 inning.
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
10. Middle Tennessee
(first place votes in parentheses)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ford Proctor, Rice (Sophomore, IF)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Glenn Otto, Rice (Junior, Right-hander)
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
RHP Glenn Otto
National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association
RHP Glenn Otto
RHP Ricardo Salinas
RHP Glenn Otto, Rice
National Stopper of the Year Watch List
RHP Glenn Otto, Rice
Golden Spikes Award Watch List
RHP Glenn Otto, Rice
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. Newcomer Brad Gneiting turned in sound and solid outings to earn himself playing time this spring. Gneiting was a tough out in Blue-Gray games, batting .302 from the left side and finishing tied for second on the squad in steals... 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