Owls Head West For Four-Game Series At No. 4 Stanford Feb. 22-25
For the second time in as many weekends, the Rice baseball team (3-1 on the season) heads out to the coast for a rugged slate of games. Last weekend (Feb. 16-18) the Owls were in Orlando, Fla., for a tough tournament featuring No. 15 Virginia, No. 22 Central Florida and Samford. This weekend (Feb. 22-25) the Blue & Gray is on the west coast for a four-game road series vs. a 4-0 Stanford squad that is ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation by PerfectGame.com. The Cardinal are also ranked No. 9 in two other national polls. Start times are set for 8 pm (Central Time) on both Thursday and Friday. Saturday's first pitch is 3 pm and Sunday's series finale is 1 pm (all Central Time)... Rice is back home to host crosstown foe Houston Baptist in a three-game series at Reckling Park beginning on March 2.
Watch Stanford Series Online Via PAC-12 Network
This weekend's games in Palo Alto are slated for a live online video broadcast via Stanford's channel of the PAC-12 Network. The broadcast is a subscription-based service which matches the play-by-play audio with a video feed to create a television-like production on the Internet.
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. Matt Pedersen has the Rice-call for the upcoming west coast action at Stanford, and a host of early-season games. J.P. Heath returns to the booth full time after the completion of the respective Rice men's and women's basketball seasons. Heath starts his tenth season as the voice of the Owls.
Follow The Tweeting Rice Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceBaseball while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceAthletics. Twitter is perhaps the fastest way to get weather-related changes to the schedule/updated start times.
Live Stats Links Online at RiceOwls.com
Links to live play-by-play text and statistics from every game, home and away, are posted on RiceOwls.com. Look for the links on the Rice Athletics front page, the weekly series preview, and/or the baseball schedule page.
National Postseason Streak At 23-Straight
Rice baseball's 23-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is now the third-longest active streak in the nation. Three of the country's top four streaks of making the NCAA Tournament are all of the active variety. In 2017 Florida State made the field for the 40th-consecutive year, while Cal State Fullerton made it in for the 26th-straight year.
Head Coach Wayne Graham
Four-time national coach of the year and 2012 College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Graham (Texas, 1970) is beginning his 27th season at Rice. The 2018 campaign marks his 38th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,150-498 with the Owls (677-187 at home, 363-237 on the road and 110-74 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .698, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .698 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 113 games in a single year... Graham is 12-14 vs. Stanford (7-7 home, 3-6 road, 2-1 neutral)... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2017, making 23-straight seasons for Rice to earn a NCAA appearance. The Blue & Gray has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17. The 2003 bid culminated with the Owls' first national championship... Rice played in the 1994-95-96 Southwest Conference tournaments (winning the final league title in `96), won the 1997-98-99 WAC tournaments, shared the 2000 WAC title with San Jose State before winning the 2001-02-03-04-05 titles outright. He won (or shared) C-USA regular season crowns in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as the C-USA tournament championships in `06, `07, `09, `11, `13, `14 and `17... Graham was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 1998, `99, `02 and the Co-Coach of the Year in `03. He was named the Keith LeClair C-USA Coach of the Year in `06, his first year in the league, and again in `07, `08, `10 and `11... Rice has seven appearances in the NCAA College World Series, all under Graham (1997, `99, `02, `03, `06, `07, `08)... Graham has led the Owls to number-one rankings for seven weeks during the 1999 season, for six weeks during the `01 campaign, two weeks in `02, six weeks in 2003 (the last of which established some staying power), three weeks in 2004, 12 weeks in 2006 and five weeks in `07... Graham's San Jacinto Gators dominated the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., in the 1980s, winning five national titles in six years (1985-86-87, 89-90)... The Austin American-Statesman named Graham its SWC Coach of the Year in `95 after he led the Owls to their first NCAA tournament appearance... Collegiate Baseball was especially cognizant of Graham's efforts at San Jac. He was named the newspaper's Coach of the Decade for all levels in the 1980s after winning those five junior college national titles, and CB tabbed him the NJCAA Coach of the Century... He was named the 2007 Division I college Coach of the Year by FieldTurf... One of the few current collegiate head coaches to have played in the major leagues (N.Y. Mets in 1963, Philadelphia in 1964), Graham is aided by assistant coaches John Pope (Rice, 1990, Jones College; second year), Paul Janish (Rice, 2004; first year), and Jordan Kopycinski (Texas State, 2010; first year).
1,725 Collegiate Wins A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,150 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,725 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,725-611 in a coaching career that began in 1981 (37 years completed, now in his 38th).
Season Openers & Home Under Wayne Graham
The Owls won their home-opener against Texas State on Tuesday night (Feb. 20). Looking sharp out of the gate is nothing new for Rice under Wayne Graham. Rice is 21-6 in its home-openers under the current head coach. After a dramatic walk-off victory over Samford in the 2018 season-opener last weekend at the UCF Tournament in Orlando, the Owls are now 20-7 in season-openers on Graham's watch.
Possible Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham announced Rice's starting pitchers for the Stanford series as the right-handed trio of Ricardo Salinas, Matt Canterino and Addison Moss. Sunday's Rice starter will be announced by coach Graham at a later time. Here's a little closer look at the upcoming Owl rotation.
Redshirt junior Ricardo Salinas (0-0, 3.00 ERA) was ready to serve as one of the veterans on young Rice pitching staff in 2017, but the right-hander was sidelined early in his fourth start of the year and missed the remainder of the season. Salinas was the Owls' starting pitcher on the second day of the season on the road at nationally-ranked Texas, where he struck out five in 5.1 innings. The Houston native followed with a start against NCAA Regional participant Southeastern Louisiana, posting a season-high seven strikeouts, before facing west coast powers Pepperdine and Stanford. He finished the year with 15 strikeouts in 17.2 innings, and having him for all of 2017 could have made for a completely different Rice season. Salinas worked hard to rejoin his teammates this year, where he is officially listed as a redshirt junior on the field and a senior in the classroom. He made a controlled, 3.0 inning start in the season-opener vs. Samford and struck out four while allowing only one base hit.
A year ago Matt Canterino (0-0, 3.1218 ERA) delivered some solid outings in his debut season at the Division I level. He led Conference USA, and ranked 27th in the NCAA, with 111 strikeouts. Canterino also led the league, and ranked 31st in the nation, for fewest hits allowed per 9.0 innings (6.28) on the way to being named to the 2017 C-USA All-Freshman squad. The Southlake, Texas, native posted wins over Stanford, FIU, Western Kentucky, UAB and Florida Atlantic. He was sensational vs. FAU at the C-USA Tournament, where he struck out a career-high 11 in a career-long 7.2 innings to earn selection to the C-USA All-Tournament team. Now a veteran sophomore, Canterino was particularly sharp in the team's scrimmages in the off-season training program. He he allowed just one hit while fanning eight in his first outing of the season last week at UCF.
Versatile Addison Moss (0-1, 4.05 ERA) was sound and solid working a career-long 6.2 innings in his season debut vs. No. 15 Virginia last week as a freshman in 2017 he played either as a pitcher or infielder in 33 of the team's 64 games. His regular pitching role was 22 relief appearances totaling 37.2 innings, but he made his first and only collegiate start on the mound in easily the most boisterous environment in all of college baseball - a night game in the NCAA Tournament against nationally-ranked LSU at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge. The then true freshman did not show any signs of being influenced by the rowdy crowd. Moss pitched without allowing any walks against the Tigers, but could have used some defensive help from his teammates before being charged with three unearned runs in the second inning... Perhaps his very best Rice outing to date was one very few Americans saw. In November of 2016 he was the lone rookie to play in the Owls' exhibition road game at professional Cuban League team Artemisa (southwest of Havana). The versatile freshman started the game at first base batting seventh in the lineup, and was error-free in the field in nine defensive chances. He then switched spots with Owl starting pitcher Dane Myers in the bottom of the seventh inning and closed out the final 3.0 scoreless frames for an international exhibition save. In his debut on international soil, Moss scattered two singles with no walks and one strikeout in the 4-0 shutout victory at Estadio 26 de Julio in Cuba.
Last Time Out: Owls Rally Past Texas State Tuesday Night, 8-6
HOUSTON - Rice true freshman Trei Cruz knocked a bases-loaded triple in the bottom of the eighth inning to rally the Owls' baseball team past visiting Texas State 8-6 Tuesday night at Reckling Park in Houston... Texas State jumped on the scoreboard for three runs in the top of third inning. The Bobcats stretched the margin to 5-0 heading into Rice's half of the sixth, when the Owls pushed across a run on Ford Proctor's sacrifice fly... Rice added two more in the seventh - a Cruz sacrifice fly to score Justin Collins, and Bradley Gneiting alertly hustling home on a Bobcat fielding error to make the score 5-3. Texas State answered with a run in the top of the eighth for a three-run lead, 6-3, but the Owls were far from finished... In the bottom of the eighth Rice loaded the bases and with a pair of walks and hit batsman. A run scored on a wild pitch to make 6-4, but another walk re-loaded the stations for Cruz. The former Episcopal High School star found himself in a battle at the plate before lacing a pitch into the gap in left-center field. Three runs dashed home and Cruz dug for third to give the Blue & Gray the lead for the first time, 7-6. Rice added one more run in the frame for a little more breathing room at 8-6... Owls sophomore right-hander Garrett Gayle closed out the Bobcats in the top of the ninth with back-to-back strikeouts to preserve the final. Rice is now 3-1 on the season. Texas State dropped to 1-3.
Preseason Eyes On Canterino For National Honors
DALLAS -- Rice's Matt Canterino has been named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' (NCBWA) 2018 Preseason All-America Third Team, the organization announced on February 5... Canterino's sensational debut season of Division I baseball included selection to the C-USA All-Tournament and All-Freshmen teams. As a rookie right-hander in 2017, the Southlake, Texas, native finished 12th in the nation with 10.4 strikeouts per 9.0 innings (minimum 96.0 inn.) and led the league with the fewest hits allowed per 9.0 innings (6.28). During one stretch of games Canterino posted double-digit strikeouts in three consecutive starts, becoming the first Owl to accomplish that feat since eventual major leaguer Jeff Niemann in 2003.
Take A Closer Look At Last Year
Rice had 31 losses in 2017, but a closer look is in order. The Owls always play a tough schedule, and a year ago the team played 27 games against eleven different teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament. In fact if you want to talk about a tough opening stretch, consider each of the Owls' first nine games to start the year (vs. the likes of Texas, Dallas Baptist, Southeastern Louisiana and TCU) all went on to make the NCAA Tournament. The final margin in eleven of the losses was two runs (or less), and six of the losses were by a single run. The Owls saw a number of star players, including MLB draft pick Tristan Gray, Jackson Parthasarathy, Ricardo Salinas and Josh Pettitte, all sidelined at various points during the season.
DiCaprio & Proctor Named To Bragan Slugger Award Watch List
Both Ford Proctor and Dominic DiCaprio have been named to the initial watch list for the 2018 Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award... From its headquarters in the DFW Metroplex, the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation has combined a passion for baseball and providing youngsters with the incentive and opportunity to pursue a college education for more than 25 years. Starting in 2017, one position player from a Division I baseball school in Texas will be presented with the Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award -- based on performance at the plate, academics and personal integrity. The winner of the award will be announced in June and honored at a gala in the fall... DiCaprio, now a junior, was one of four finalists for the same award a year ago. The Coral Springs, Fla., native started 63 of the team's 64 games, including 58 times behind the plate. DiCaprio led the team in batting average (.366) and on-base percentage (.438), and was second on the squad in hits (87) and RBI (49). He helped carry the team in the second half of last season, hitting .385 over the final 32 games... Proctor was a fixture in the lineup last season, starting all 64 games at shortstop and playing all 553.2 innings at shortstop. He led the Owls in runs scored (58) and walks (39) and was second on the team with 19 doubles. The standout from Beaumont collected two or more hits in a game 17 times, including a career-high tying three hits in a game seven different times.
Preseason C-USA Accolades
IRVING, Texas - The Owl trio of Matt Canterino, Dominic DiCaprio and Ford Proctor were all tabbed for preseason honors in the annual Conference USA head coaches' poll, the C-USA office announced on Jan. 24... After sensational individual seasons in 2017, the Owls' veteran standouts have the full attention of the 12 C-USA head coaches. Three players are the most selections from one team, with Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss also placing a trio on the league's 14-player preseason squad. As a team, the C-USA coaches collectively picked Rice to finish second in the 2018 regular season race behind defending regular season champ Southern Miss. The Owls defeated the Golden Eagles for the 2017 C-USA tournament crown to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
2018 PRESEASON BASEBALL HONORS
(as selected by C-USA's head coaches)
P - Matt Canterino, So., Rice
P - Nick MacDonald, So., FIU
P - Jake Miednik, Sr., Florida Atlantic
RP - Nick Sandlin, Jr., Southern Miss
C - Dominic DiCaprio, Jr., Rice
IF - Bryan Arias, Jr., UTSA
IF - Tyler Frank, Jr., Florida Atlantic
IF - Ford Proctor, Jr., Rice
IF - Vinny Pasquantino, So., Old Dominion
OF - Kyle Battle, So., Old Dominion
OF - Mason Irby, Sr., Southern Miss
OF - David Miranda, Sr., Florida Atlantic
OF - Matt Wallner, So., Southern Miss
DH/UT - Aaron Aucker, Sr., Middle Tennessee
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Matt Wallner, Southern Miss (Sophomore, OF/P)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Nick Sandlin, Southern Miss (Junior, RHP)
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Southern Miss (11)
2. Rice (1)
3. Florida Atlantic
4. Old Dominion
7. Louisiana Tech
9. Middle Tennessee
(first place votes in parentheses)...
Last Season's Final NCAA RPI: 41
If you have disdain for the politics of the various baseball polls and prefer the cold, hard math of the NCAA's official Rating Power Index (RPI), then consider that Rice's final 2017 RPI was No. 41 in the nation. Rice was among four C-USA schools ranked in the top 51 of last season's final RPI.
New At Reckling Park! Bixby Batting Barn; New Fan "Roost"
Rice's Reckling Park, the best place to watch and play a college game, is better than ever this season after its most-recent renovations that benefit both the student-athletes and fans. In the on-going commitment to player development, the enclosed Bixby Batting Barn down the right-field line has been upgraded with expansion and remodeling. The final phase of the upgrade is the installment of large color banners showcasing the program's 37 former Owls who have gone on to play in the major leagues. The true-blue fans meanwhile will be sure to flock to the permanent new `Roost' on the first base side for in-game hospitality. The fully-air conditioned facility features its own restrooms, lobby and service area, as well as a tiered outdoor patio that is close to the action but safe with newly installed netting.
Rice Owls On The Coaching Staff
There are two former Rice Owls on Wayne Graham's 2018 coaching staff. Rice graduate and two-time Texas High School Baseball Coach of the Year John Pope (Jones College 1990) is in his second season as an assistant coach at his alma mater. He played his final two collegiate seasons at Rice in 1988 and 1989 and went on to log 19 years of coaching in the high school ranks in the greater Houston area. Former major leaguer and 2003 Rice National Champion Paul Janish joined the Owls' baseball staff as an assistant coach in August of 2017. Janish (Wiess College) played professionally the last 13 years with nine seasons in the major leagues, most recently in 2017 with the Baltimore Orioles... "It is a unique challenge to be a student-athlete at Rice," coach Graham explained. "I like having former Rice players on the coaching staff who have already been through the experience. It is important our players are able to relate to the staff in that way."
There are some Rice newcomers to keep an eye on in 2018. Third baseman Braden Comeaux joins the Owls as a sophomore transfer from LSU-Eunice, the No. 2 junior college program in the nation. Comeaux started 55 games for the Bengals primarily at shortstop, where he batted .377 with 53 runs scored, 49 RBI, a .447 on-base percentage and 30 stolen bases. True freshman second baseman Trei Cruz is a highly honored switch-hitting prep standout from nearby Episcopal High School who was selected in the 33rd round of the 2017 Major League Draft by the hometown Astros. Cruz is a Rice University legacy player as his father, Jose Cruz Jr. (1993-1995), and uncle, Enrique Cruz (2001-2003) both played for coach Graham.
21 Conference Titles In The Last 22 Years
After one year away Rice reclaimed a conference championship in 2017 by winning the C-USA Tournament title in Biloxi, Miss. From 1996 to 2015 the Owls had won or shared a total of 20-straight conference championships (including either regular season and/or conference tournament titles). The streak covered membership in three different leagues beginning with the Southwest Conference (1996), to nine seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1997-2005) and now 11 C-USA titles from 2006-2017. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 22 years:
Year Conf. Regular Season Conf. Tourney
2017 C-USA 6th 1st
2016 C-USA 4th 2nd
2015 C-USA 1st tied 7th
2014 C-USA 1st 1st
2013 C-USA tied 1st 1st
2012 C-USA 1st tied 5th
2011 C-USA tied 1st 1st
2010 C-USA 1st 2nd
2009 C-USA 2nd 1st
2008 C-USA 1st tied 7th
2007 C-USA 1st 1st
2006 C-USA 1st 1st
2005 WAC 1st no tourney
2004 WAC 1st no tourney
2003 WAC 1st no tourney
2002 WAC 1st no tourney
2001 WAC 1st no tourney
2000 WAC tied 1st no tourney
1999 WAC 1st 1st
1998 WAC 1st South Div. 1st
1997 WAC 1st South Div. 1st
1996 SWC tied 6th 1st
Rice Since 1999
Using the 1999 season as the starting point (the year the NCAA expanded the postseason tournament field to 64 teams with the current Super Regional format), Rice baseball has maintained one of the nation's top win percentages over the last 19 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999-2017 (note: this listing will not be updated to include games played in 2018):
Team Years Wins Loses Ties PCT
Florida State 19 922 344 1 .728
Rice 19 870 357 0 .709
North Carolina 19 846 360 1 .701
LSU 19 859 374 6 .696
South Carolina 19 861 380 0 .694
Cal St. Fullerton 19 814 371 0 .687
Coastal Carolina 19 806 368 1 .686
Miami (Fla.) 19 813 371 3 .686
Oral Roberts 19 776 360 0 .683
Texas 19 811 397 1 .671
Arizona State 19 731 367 2 .665
Virginia 19 765 393 3 .660
Georgia Tech 19 773 405 1 .656
Oregon State 19 715 381 1 .652
TCU 19 766 411 0 .651
Florida 19 789 426 2 .649
Louisville 19 757 412 1 .647
Clemson 19 795 433 1 .647
Nebraska 19 738 409 3 .643
Stanford 19 732 411 2 .640
Florida Atlantic 19 725 410 2 .639
Texas A&M 19 759 431 3 .637
Kent State 19 712 405 0 .637
Dallas Baptist 12 451 257 0 .637
East Carolina 19 729 420 4 .634
Oklahoma St. 19 724 424 0 .631
Southern Miss 19 727 426 1 .630
Tulane 19 726 429 2 .628
Col. of Charleston 19 704 418 2 .627
Vanderbilt 19 737 439 1 .627
Louisiana 19 724 437 2 .623
St. John's 19 669 408 3 .621
Ole Miss 19 726 448 1 .618
Arkansas 19 723 453 0 .615
The Last Meeting
March 12, 2017