Owls Play At U.H. On Tuesday Night

Feb. 27, 2012

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    Feb. 28 (Tues.) 6:30 pm; Rice at Houston
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    Mar. 2 (Fri.) 7 pm; Rice (home) vs. Texas (visitor) at Minute Maid Park
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    Mar. 3 (Sat.) 7 pm; Rice (home) vs. Texas Tech (visitor) at Minute Maid Park
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    Mar. 4 (Sun.) 6 pm; Rice (visitor) vs. Tennessee (home) at Minute Maid Park
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    Undefeated Owls Play At U.H. On Tuesday Night; Head Way Downtown Mar. 2-4
    The undefeated Rice baseball team (8-0) takes to the road for the first time season with a non-conference game against crosstown rival Houston on Tuesday (Feb. 28). First pitch with U.H. is set for 6:30 pm at Cougar Field. The Owls then play three games downtown at Minute Maid Park this weekend (Mar. 2-4) as part of the annual Houston College Classic Tournament. Rice is slated to play as the final game all three nights of the College Classic, one of the elite regular season tournaments played at the home venue of the Houston Astros. The Blue & Gray plays the next five games away from home before returning to Reckling Park on March 7.

    Watch The Games On-line
    Even when the Owls are away from Reckling Park like they are this week, there is still a chance to watch the games live on-line. At game time use the above video links to watch the various live video feeds.

    Audio Broadcasts - Catch Every Rice Baseball Game On The Web & At The Park
    Every Rice baseball game this season will be broadcast live around the world on the Internet at RiceOwls.com. Use the above link to access the Internet audio page. Tune-in to the pregame show 30 minutes before each game's first pitch. Fans attending the games can now listen to the Rice broadcast at the stadium where the team plays via an FM proximity transmitter. The frequency for the proximity broadcast at Reckling Park is 99.7 FM.

    Live Stats On GameTracker
    Live play-by-play text and statistics from every game will be posted on RiceOwls.com. Look for the GameTracker links on the Rice Athletics front page, the weekly series preview, or the baseball schedule page.

    National Ranking Update • Rice No. 4
    Rice was ranked in the Top 10 of a host of different polls to start the 2012 campaign. The team made some progress in the polls after the perfect 8-0 start to the season. Here's a closer look at the latest rankings:

    Poll This Week Last Week
    PerfectGame.com 4 4
    Collegiate Baseball Magazine 4 5
    NCBWA 4 7
    USA Today/ESPN 4 --
    Baseball America 5 5

    Rice University Centennial; 96th Season On The Baseball Field
    Rice University is celebrating its centennial in 2012. 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 2012 season is, however, only the Owls' 96th 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 1,827 - 1,470 - 9.

    Head Coach Wayne Graham
    Four-time national coach of the year and Texas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Graham (Texas, 1970) is in his 21st season at Rice. The 2012 campaign marks his 32nd year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 920-361 with the Owls (558-127 at home, 274-183 in road games and 88-51 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .718, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .718 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 116 games in a single year... Graham's record vs. this week's opponents is: 73-25 vs. Houston (41-7 at home, 30-18 away, 2-0 neutral); 23-33 vs. Texas (11-11 at home, 6-17 away, 6-5 neutral); 19-16 vs. Texas Tech (6-4 at home, 4-8 away, 9-4 neutral); 0-0 vs. Tennessee... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2011, making 17-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. 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 and 2011 as well as the C-USA tournament championships in `06, `07, `09 and `11... 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 and `10... 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 Mike Taylor (Prairie View A&M, 1997; 12th year), Patrick Hallmark (Rice, 1995, Brown College; seventh year), and Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; first year)... On game days Hallmark coaches at third base while Van Hook coaches at first base.

    1,495 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
    Wayne Graham owns 920 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,495 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall collegiate record is 1,495-474 in a 31-year career that began in 1981.

    Probable Rice Pitcher
    Wayne Graham announced the Owls' probable starting pitcher for the Houston game as junior Andrew Benak (1-0, 0.00). The Owl starters for the Houston College Classic will be announced by Coach Graham at a later time.

  • If your're only as good as your last outing than Andrew Benak is flying high. The junior from Houston was simply sensational in his last appearance on Feb. 22 (Wed.) vs. New Mexico State. In that game, his first start of 2012 and only the fifth of his collegiate career, Benak dominated the NMSU hitters with 10 strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work. The 6-foot-5 right-hander scattered just two singles and did not walk a batter on the way to his first win of the season. He struck out every batter in the lineup at least once and had one stretch of striking out nine of 14... Benak is a redshirt junior who has been sidelined for most of the past four years. Now finally healthy for the first time since a standout prep career at Langham Creek H.S., Benak has quickly made up for lost time. His outings in the 2011 fall training program were the first indication that a healthy Benak could prove to be a different pitcher that the one Rice (and opponents) had seen before. The lesson in Benak's comeback story is that Rice baseball (the coaches and his teammates) never gave up on Andrew Benak, and perhaps more importantly, Andrew Benak never gave up on Andrew Benak.
  • The University of Houston announced its probable starting pitcher as junior right-hander Austin Pruitt (0-0, 0.00).

    Non-League Affair
    Tuesday's game against Houston is not a Conference USA league contest. The three-game C-USA series with the Cougars is set for May 4-6 at Reckling Park.

    Fuda & Reckling Sweep Weekly C-USA Awards
    IRVING - The Rice senior duo of Michael Fuda and Matthew Reckling have been named the Conference USA Hitter and Pitcher of the Week, respectively, for Feb. 20-26 the league office announced Monday (Feb. 27) from its headquarters in Irving, Tex... Both Owls had sensational outings to help the nationally-ranked Rice baseball team go unbeaten in its five games last week and remain undefeated on the young season at 8-0 overall. Reckling posted a career-best start on Feb. 25, firing a two-hit shutout for 8.1 innings with no walks and a career-high 11 strikeouts in a win against a Dallas Baptist team that advanced to an NCAA Super Regional last season. For the entire week, the right-hander from Houston maintained a 0.00 ERA for 9.1 innings with 13 strikeouts and no walks. He also threw a scoreless frame with two strikeouts in a midweek relief appearance against New Mexico State (Feb. 22). Reckling held all opposing hitters to a composite .071 batting average. It is the second time in Reckling's career to earn the C-USA Pitcher of the Week Award (also won on Feb. 21, 2011)... Senior centerfielder Michael Fuda helped lift Rice to its best start since 2001 by going 12-for-21 (.571) with four doubles and a home run for a .905 slugging percentage. He tied for the team lead with five RBI and scored four runs in Rice's five wins. The native of Katy, Tex., had an RBI in every game and at least two hits in four of the games. He drew one walk for a .591 on-base average. This is Fuda's first career C-USA Hitter of the Week Award.

    Previous Outing: Rice Completes Sweep of Dallas Baptist Sunday
    HOUSTON - Rice junior Michael Ratterree clubbed a bases-clearing double to key a four-run fifth inning that helped lift the No. 4 ranked Rice baseball team to a come-from-behind 7-3 victory over visiting Dallas Baptist Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park in Houston... With the win the Rice completed a sweep of the three-game weekend series and remained unbeaten on the young season at 8-0. The undefeated ledger matched the program's best start to a season since the 2001 team began the year 8-0... On Sunday the Owls had to rally to catch a talented Dallas Baptist squad that advanced to an NCAA Super Regional last season. The Patriots struck for a run in the top of the first on a two-out single by Duncan McAlpine scored Ronnie Mitchell. DBU doubled the margin to 2-0 in the third after a sacrifice fly by Mitchell... Rice hustled for a run in the fourth before taking the lead for good in the following frame. In the fourth Ratterree reached on a fielder's choice, moved to second on a base hit to left by Michael Aquino, and scored on J.T. Chargois' two-out single to center... Derek Hamilton led off the fifth with a base hit and he moved to scoring position on Geoff Perrott's sacrifice bunt. He scored on Michael Fuda's two-out single to tie the game 2-2, but the Owls weren't finished. Shane Hoelscher followed with a single and Jeremy Rathjen drew a walk to load the bases. Ratterree then knocked a dramatic double to center field to clear the bases and put the Blue & Gray in front, 5-2... "I'm amazed we did as well as we did because their starting pitcher was dominating us early," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "He shut us out for three, and we wound up getting five runs off of him. It's a sign of maturity when a starter can shut you out for three and we come back and get five runs."... Rice had the lead, but the contest was far from over. The Owls needed a sound and solid effort from the bullpen to keep the Patriots in check. Senior left-hander Taylor Wall delivered. He entered the game back in the fourth and worked out of a two-on, no outs jam by picking off a runner, getting a strikeout and easy grounder to second base... Wall went on to work a total of 4.2 innings, scattering four hits without any walks and striking out two. The senior from Houston allowed just one run, which was unearned, in the seventh after an Owl fielding error... "Taylor is probably better right now than he's ever been," coach Graham said. "His stuff is better ever because he's added that curve ball and his fast ball is back where it needs to be. He's really doing well."... Rice got the run right back in the bottom of the seventh. Fuda doubled to left for his second hit of the day and came home on an RBI single into left by Rathjen made the score 6-3... The Owls closed out the scoring in the bottom of the eighth. Walks to Chargois and Hamilton put two men on and Craig Manuel punched a base hit through the right side to make it 7-3. Junior right-hander Tyler Duffey entered the game in relief of Wall in the eighth and closed out the ninth with a scoreless inning for his first save of the season... "Our pitching has been pretty strong overall," Wall said. "We have a lot of guys that can come in pound the (strike) zone. We get ahead in the count. That keeps the defense involved, and the fielders all like that. All us pitchers know that our lineup is going to hit sooner or later. Mike came up with that big hit to give us the lead and that was the game-changer. We see him do that all the time in practice."

    Did You Know?
    Rice's 8-0 start to the season is the program's best since an identical undefeated ledger to begin 2001. That 2001 squad went 8-0 before suffering its first loss of the season to Purdue at home. The national championship team of 2003 was 7-1 through its first eight games, and went on to build a 33-1 ledger through the first 34 games of that season.

    Rice's Televised Games In 2012
    HOUSTON - Rice Athletics has announced its preliminary lineup of Owl baseball games that will be televised in the upcoming 2012 season. There are 11 Rice games tabbed for a television broadcast by a host of national networks. The number of televised games could still increase during the course of the year, including games in the C-USA Championship where the May 27 Final is set for a broadcast on CBS College Sports... Rice's televised games begin in March. All three Rice games from the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park are set for a broadcast by either ESPN 3 (vs. Texas Tech and Tennessee) and/or The Longhorn Network (vs. Texas). Eight regular season home games from Reckling Park will be televised beginning on March 13. Note there will be a new start time on four of the home games to accommodate the broadcast of contests with Arizona (Mar. 13), Texas State (April 10), and Stephen F. Austin (May 8) - all of which are now 6 pm starts... Rice's May 5 game vs. crosstown rival Houston now begins at 1:30 pm. All three C-USA league games against UH in May will be televised. Rice baseball returns to play on familiar networks with games on CSS Sports, Fox Sports Net, and Fox College Sports. The full 2012 TV lineup for Rice baseball is listed below.

    Rice's 2012 Games Selected For Television Broadcast
    March 2 vs. Texas - 7 pm Longhorn Network
    March 3 vs. Texas Tech - 7 pm ESPN 3
    March 4 vs. Tennessee - 6 pm ESPN 3
    March 13 vs. Arizona - 6 pm* CSS Sports
    March 14 vs. Arizona - 6:30 pm CSS Sports
    April 1 vs. Southern Miss - 1 pm FOX Sports Net
    April 10 vs. Texas State - 6 pm* CSS Sports
    May 4 vs. Houston - 6:30 pm FOX College Sports
    May 5 vs. Houston - 1:30 pm FOX Sports Net
    May 6 vs. Houston - 1 pm CSS Sports
    May 8 vs. Stephen F. Austin - 6 pm* CSS Sports
    (May 27 C-USA Championship - 1 pm) CBS College Sports
    * - denotes a new starting time

    Get a printable Rice Baseball Schedule here Get Acrobat Reader

    The C-USA Favorites
    IRVING, Tex. - With four preseason all-conference players, including sophomore Austin Kubitza as the 2012 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 on Jan. 26.

    The Owls' junior trio of pitcher Tyler Duffey, Michael Ratterree and Jeremy Rathjen joined Kubitza on C-USA's 2012 list, giving Rice the most preseason honorees of any school in the annual coaches' survey.

    There has been a steady stream of preseason honors for Austin Kubitza, a third team 2012 preseason All-America selection by both Collegiate Baseball magazine and the College Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). A year ago Kubitza had an outstanding debut at the Division I level where he was named a Freshman All-America. He went 6-5 on the mound in his role as the Owls' Friday night starter (the spot often matched against the opposing team's ace pitcher). The right-hander from Colleyville, Tex., led the Owls' and ranked among the C-USA leaders in ERA (2.34), innings (100.0) and strikeouts (102).

    Though Jeremy Rathjen's was sidelined with an injury for most of last season, his return to Rice's 2012 lineup was not lost on the C-USA coaches. In 2011 Rathjen started each of the first 16 games in centerfield and as the cleanup hitter where he hit .295. The Houston native from Memorial High School was leading the team in RBI, doubles, multi-hit and multi-RBI games before getting sidelined, but didn't play the final two-thirds of the season. In June Rathjen was regarded high enough to be selected in the major league draft by the New York Yankees, but he chose not to sign professionally and returned to Rice with a redshirt season.

    Ratterree was named to the C-USA outfield, his new position on the team after starting 58 games at second base last season. The 6-foot-1 junior led the Owls (and finished third in C-USA) in both RBI (53) and total bases (125), while sharing the team lead in hitting (.327) and home runs (6). The Houston native and fellow Memorial High School star's hitting in the second half of the season helped pave the way to Rice's C-USA regular season co-championship. In addition to having at least one base hit in 30-of-32 games from April 3 until the end of the year, Ratterree hit an eye-opening .421 with a .640 slugging percentage and 25 runs scored over the team's final 25 games. Last month Collegiate Baseball selected Ratterree to its preseason All-America squad as a second team outfielder.

    Duffey finished third in the conference in appearances (30) and tied for third in the league in wins (8) to go along with a 2.52 ERA, but his sterling play in the second half of the season made the biggest impression on C-USA coaches. Over his last 34.1 innings of the season he maintained a 0.79 ERA, held opponents to a .206 batting average and allowed just one extra-base hit. The area standout from nearby Bellaire High School was named the MVP of the C-USA Tournament after two brilliant outings over a three-day span where Rice claimed the league title and automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

    Rice returns 22 experienced lettermen to the roster in 2012, including eight returning starters in the field and a host of veteran pitchers. The Owls have a highly-touted group of incoming freshmen players making their Division I debut this spring. The Owls were recently ranked sixth in Baseball America's preseason poll and seventh by Collegiate Baseball.

    (as selected by C-USA's head coaches)

    1. Rice (8)

    2. UCF (1)
    3. East Carolina
    4. Southern Miss
    5. Houston
    6. Tulane
    7. Memphis
    8. UAB
    9. Marshall
    (first place votes in parentheses)

    D.J. Hicks, UCF (Junior, Designated Hitter/Pitcher)

    Austin Kubitza, Rice (Sophomore, Right-hander)

    P Kevin Brandt Sr. East Carolina
    P Austin Kubitza So. Rice
    P Dillon Napoleon Sr. UAB
    RP Tyler Duffey Jr. Rice
    C Jeremy Schaffer Sr. Tulane
    C Zach Wright Sr. East Carolina
    IF Chase Jensen Jr. Houston
    IF Darnell Sweeney Jr. UCF
    IF Corey Thompson Sr. East Carolina
    IF Jacob Wilson Sr. Memphis
    OF Kameron Brunty Sr. Southern Miss
    OF Jeremy Rathjen Jr. Rice
    OF Michael Ratterree Jr. Rice

    OF Ronnie Richardson Jr. UCF
    DH/UT D.J. Hicks Jr. UCF

    Nation's Top Win Percentage From 1999 To 2011
    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 the nation's top win percentage. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999 to 2011: (This list does not include any 2012 results.)
    Team, Wins-Loses-Ties (Pct.)
    Rice, 635-221-0 (.742)
    Florida State, 651-227-1 (.741)
    Oral Roberts, 561-224-0 (.715)
    Texas, 614-247-1 (.713)
    Coastal Carolina, 573-234-0 (.710)
    North Carolina, 589-246-1 (.705)
    Cal State Fullerton, 579-244-0 (.704)
    Arizona State, 531-224-1 (.703)
    South Carolina, 612-261-0 (.701)
    Miami, 565-246-3 (.696)
    Wichita State, 598-276-0 (.684)
    Georgia Tech, 551-255-1 (.683)
    LSU, 558-276-5 (.668)
    Clemson, 566-288-1 (.663)
    Nebraska, 527-268-2 (.662)
    Tulane, 532-275-2 (.659)
    Stanford, 527-274-2 (.658)
    East Carolina, 519-271-0 (.657)
    Notre Dame, 511-271-5 (.652)
    Coll. of Charleston, 487-279-0 (.636)
    Florida, 517-300-2 (.632)
    TCU, 498-290-0 (.632)
    Southern Miss, 503-296-0 (.630)
    Alabama, 508-300-0 (.629)
    Virginia, 498-294-2 (.628)

    Postseason Streak At 17-Straight, Looking For 18
    The Rice baseball program has made 17-consecutive appearances in the NCAA Baseball Championship, which ranks as the fourth-longest active streak in the country. Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 39 consecutive years, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (34) and Cal State Fullerton (20). Rice's 17-straight NCAA Tournament appearances is tied for the seventh-longest national postseason streak in Division I history (with LSU, 1989-2005).

    Conference Championship Streak At 16-Straight, Looking For 17
    Rice has won or shared a total of 16-straight conference championships (including either regular season or conference tournament titles) dating back to 1996. The streak covers the Owls' membership in three different leagues beginning with the Southwest Conference, to nine seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1997-2005) and six Conference USA titles in as many years. In 2011 the Blue & Gray tied for the C-USA regular season co-championship (with Southern Miss) before winning the tournament title in late May.

    17-Straight 40-Win Seasons
    Rice has clinched 17th-straight seasons with at least 40 wins. `Forty' wins actually short-changes the feat a little. The Owls have secured at least 42 wins in 16 of the last 17 years.

    19-Straight 30-Win Seasons
    Rice has reached the 30-win plateau for 19th-straight seasons. Only five other schools in the country have longer active streaks of having won at least 30 games: Arizona State (now 49 years), Miami-Fla. (41 years), Clemson and Cal State Fullerton (both 37 years), and Georgia Tech (29).

    Solid Opening Weekend At Reckling Park
    The recent FIU series proved to be a well-attended weekend despite a two-and-a-half hour rain delay in the opener and the threat of rain all day Saturday. Last year the Stanford series was the best-attended opening weekend in Reckling Park history. Here's how some other opening weekends have added-up. (Many of the previous opening weekends were in a tournament format against three different opponents.)
    Year, 1st Weekend Total (Average)
    1. 2011 - 12,182 (4,060)
    2. 2009 - 10,950 (3,650)
    3. 2004 - 10,117 (3,372)
    4. 2012 - 9,615 (3,205)
    5. 2010 - 9,198 (3,066)

    Welcome Back Rice Baseball Alumni
    Over 100 Rice baseball lettermen, from as far back as the 1940s to the recent College World Series teams, were on hand Feb. 4 at Reckling Park as the Rice Owls baseball program celebrated its rich heritage with its biennial Alumni Weekend... A host of former players, many still playing professionally and some who were in the major leagues in 2011 like Joe Savery and Lance Pendleton, came home to Reckling Park to renew friendships and see old teammates. There may have been a little rani, but it was a fun day for all.
    Check out the video of the Baseball Alumni Fan Fest here

    Winning Is Always In Fashion
    For the fashion dynamo out there, Rice is 5-0 in its all-white uniforms, 2-0 in the pinstripes and 1-0 in blue tops with white pants.



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