Owls Head Way Downtown to Play Weekend Games at Minute Maid Park

Feb. 27, 2014

LISTEN to all Rice games via the Internet audio home page
Video Feature - Letter Perfect; 1,000 Wins For Wayne Graham
PDF of Rice's latest pregame release
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2014 Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park
Feb. 28 (Fri.) 7:05 pm; Rice vs. Texas (Rice is visiting team)
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Mar. 1 (Sat.) 7:05 pm; TCU vs. Rice (Rice is home team)
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Mar. 2 (Sun.) 1:35 pm; Rice vs. Texas Tech (Rice is visiting team)
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Rice Baseball Heads Way Downtown For Annual Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park
The Rice baseball team, 6-3 overall and a consensus Top 20 team in the current national polls, plays three games downtown at Minute Maid Park this weekend (Feb. 28-Mar. 2) at the annual Astros Foundation College Classic Tournament. The Owls are making their 14th-consecutive appearance in one of the elite regular season tournaments played at the major league home of the Houston Astros. Rice meets state rivals Texas on Friday (7:05 pm), TCU Saturday (7:05 pm), and Texas Tech Sunday (1:35 pm).

Audio Broadcasts - Catch Every Rice Baseball Game On The Web
Every Rice baseball game this season will be broadcast live around the world on the Internet at RiceOwls.com. Tune-in to the pregame show 15 minutes before each game's first pitch. J.P. Heath is in his sixth season as the voice of the Owls. Lane Zieben (who also serves as the broadcaster for Rice's women's basketball) has this weekend's call from Minute Maid Park.

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

National Rankings Update • Owls Ranked As High As No. 10
Rice is ranked among the Top 15 teams in the country in a host of different polls. The Owls climbed to No. 10 in the nation in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) weekly poll. Here's a closer look at the latest national rankings, and changes from the previous week:

Poll This Week Last Week
NCBWA 10 11
College Sports Madness 11 15
Baseball America 12 15
PerfectGame.com 12 17
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 15 17



The Last Meeting
March 2, 2012
Minute Maid Park
Owls Fall To Texas 11-8 In Late Game At Houston College Classic
The No. 4 ranked Rice baseball team fell to longtime rival Texas 11-8 in Friday's final game on the opening day of the Houston College Classic downtown at Minute Maid Park.

98th Season On The Baseball Diamond
Rice Owl baseball made its debut in the spring of 1913, just one semester after the school (then The Rice Institute) opened its doors for higher education in the fall of 1912. The 2014 season is, however, only the Owls' 98th season playing on the diamond. The school cancelled its baseball season in 1919 and did not field a team for three years (1933-35) during the Great Depression. Rice returned to the diamond in the spring of 1936 and has been playing ever since. The Rice baseball program's all-time record is 1,910 - 1,512 - 9.

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

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 23rd season at Rice. The 2014 campaign marks his 34th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,003-403 with the Owls (602-147 at home, 309-199 on the road games and 92-57 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .713, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .713 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 as follows: 23-34 vs. Texas (11-11 home, 6-17 road, 6-6 neutral); 41-18 vs. TCU (22-6 home, 12-10 road, 7-2 neutral); 21-16 vs. Texas Tech (7-4 home, 4-8 road, 10-4 neutral). Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2013, making 19-straight seasons for Rice to earn an NCAA appearance. The Blue & Gray has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13. The 2003 bid culminated with the Owls' first national championship... Rice played in the 1994-95-96 Southwest Conference tournaments (winning the final league title in `96), won the 1997-98-99 WAC tournaments, shared the 2000 WAC title with San Jose State before winning the 2001-02-03-04-05 titles outright. He won (or shared) C-USA regular season crowns in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and now 2013 as well as the C-USA tournament championships in `06, `07, `09, `11 and `13... Graham was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 1998, `99, `02 and the Co-Coach of the Year in `03. He was named the Keith LeClair C-USA Coach of the Year in `06, his first year in the league, and again in `07, `08, `10 and `11... Rice has seven appearances in the NCAA College World Series under Graham (1997, `99, `02, `03, `06, `07, `08)... Graham has led the Owls to number-one rankings for seven weeks during the 1999 season, for six weeks during the `01 campaign, two weeks in `02, six weeks in 2003 (the last of which established some staying power), three weeks in 2004, 12 weeks in 2006 and five weeks in `07... Graham's San Jacinto Gators dominated the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., in the 1980s, winning five national titles in six years (1985-86-87, 89-90)... The Austin American-Statesman named Graham its SWC Coach of the Year in `95 after he led the Owls to their first NCAA tournament appearance... Collegiate Baseball was especially cognizant of Graham's efforts at San Jac. He was named the newspaper's Coach of the Decade for all levels in the 1980s after winning those five junior college national titles, and CB tabbed him the NJCAA Coach of the Century... He was named the 2007 Division I college Coach of the Year by FieldTurf... One of the few current collegiate coaches to have played in the major leagues (N.Y. Mets in 1963, Philadelphia in 1964), Graham is aided by assistant coaches Patrick Hallmark (Rice, 1995, Brown College; ninth year), Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; third year) and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; second year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Shepherd coaches at first.

The `Grand' Coach's 1,000th Rice Win
Wayne Graham posted his 1,000th Division I win in the team's 2014 home-opener against Texas State on Feb. 18. With no shortage of drama, the Owls rallied for that 4-3 victory in the bottom of the 11th inning. Graham entered the 2014 season ranked No. 15 on the NCAA's career wins list for active coaches.

1,577 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,000 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,577 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall collegiate record is 1,577-516 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Quick On The 2014 Owls
Rice began spring practices on January 25. The 2014 Owls return six offensive starters in the batting order and ten veteran pitchers who helped last year's squad reach the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. Senior third baseman Shane Hoelscher returns at the hot corner and junior first baseman Skyler Ewing was one of the stars of the fall training program. One change from a year ago is the move of sophomore Leon Byrd, a C-USA All-Freshman and NCAA All-Regional honoree, from centerfield to shortstop. Veteran shortstop Ford Stainback has moved over to second base to take the place of senior/MLB draftee Christian Stringer. Look for the Owl outfield to be possibly comprised of three natives of The Woodlands, Texas, with the senior duo of Michael Aquino (LF) and Keenan Cook (RF) - both from College Park High School. True freshman Charlie Warren (The Woodlands HS) caught the coaches' attention as the possible new centerfielder. Junior John Williamson is also a candidate to play in the outfield. Keep an eye on newcomer John Clay Reeves (Navarro College) to split time behind the plate with sophomore Hunter Kopycinski, who was one of the stars of the Owls' NCAA postseason run.

Stephens Stands Out • Final Weekend Rotation TBA
Coach Graham will officially announce the team's starting rotation at a later time. In the preseason the one Owl the head coach firmly labeled as a weekend starter is junior right-hander Jordan Stephens. Stephens has been a sound and solid starter each of the past two years. In 2014 he started on opening day against Stanford on the road in Palo Alto, Calif., (Feb. 14). Stephens fanned five Cardinal hitters in 5.0 innings to earn his first victory of the year. In his home debut against Purdue (Feb. 21) the Alvin, Texas, native struck out seven in a season-long 7.0 innings while allowing just one run on five hits... In 2013 Stephens went 8-4 with a 2.48 ERA. In 17 starts he pitched more than 6.2 innings per outing and held opponents to a composite .219 batting average. He maintained a 3.2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio with 7.6 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. In his inaugural season of Division I baseball in 2012, Stephens caught the coaches' attention in the fall practices and earned the No. 3 starting spot to begin the year. He went on to pitch in 14 games overall and finish fourth on the team with eight starts. One of his early breakout performances was 6.2 shutout innings at No. 2 Stanford where held the Cardinal to just three hits.

Rice At Minute Maid Park
Rice will be playing at the Houston College Classic for the 14th year in a row. The Owls are 26-13 in 39 games at Minute Maid Park, the most wins of any team in the history of the event. Rice went 0-3 at the tournament last season, falling to No. 1 ranked North Carolina 2-1, Texas A&M 8-3 and Baylor 9-2... When playing at Minute Maid Park, Rice is 2-4 vs. Texas, 2-0 vs. TCU and 7-0 vs. Texas Tech... The Blue & Gray is also 4-3 vs. Texas A&M, 5-3 vs. Baylor, 0-1 vs. North Carolina, 1-0 vs. Kansas State, 1-0 vs. Kentucky, 1-0 vs. Oklahoma, 1-0 vs. Oklahoma State, 1-0 vs. UCLA, 1-0 vs. Tennessee, and 0-1 vs. Alabama and 0-1 vs. Vanderbilt.

Rice Highlights At The College Classic
The Owls won all three of their games in the inaugural tournament in 2001, but have had plenty of drama downtown over the years. Jesse Roman hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning vs. Baylor for the Owls' 1-0 victory in the first college game ever played in what was then called Enron Field... A highlight of 2002 was Dane Bubela's home run in the top of the 12th to give Rice' a 10-9 victory over Baylor... The Blue & Gray lost its first game of the 2003 season on a Sunday at Minute Maid by a score of 6-5 to Alabama (Feb. 16). The most notable aspect of the 2003 tournament was that it served as surreal springboard for the next few weeks. After falling to Alabama by a single run the Owls won 30 games in a row and didn't lose again for nearly two months. Rice went on to claim the national championship... In 2005 Rice junior pitcher and future major leaguer Josh Geer was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Geer held nationally-ranked Texas A&M in check for 8.0 innings, allowing just one run (unearned), one hit and two walks with five strikeouts in front of a raucous crowd. He retired 21 in a row at one point and induced 16 ground ball outs... In 2009 the Owls had a whirlwind three days at the Classic, defeating UCLA in ten innings when Michael Fuda scored from second base on an infield hit. Eventual MLB draft pick Ryan Berry then showcased a pitching performance that was maybe even more dominating than Geer's two years before. Berry fired a complete-game two-hit shutout victory against Texas A&M. The Humble, Tex., native allowed just one hit through the first eight innings, struck out 12 and did not walk a batter. For his efforts Berry was named the Most Outstanding Player of the College Classic and the National Pitcher of the Week by Collegiate Baseball... In 2010 it was three nail-biting, one-run games against three longtime state rivals (Texas, TCU and Texas Tech). Texas was No. 3 in the country and TCU went on to play in the College World Series... In 2011 the Owls had three dramatic games, including two one-run wins. The 2011 highlight was Austin Kubitza's masterful, complete-game, six-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory over Texas A&M on day two. In only his third start at the Division I level, Kubitza faced only 31 batters on an Aggie team ranked as high as No. 9 in the nation for his first collegiate win. He scattered six hits without any walks and tied a career-best with seven strikeouts. For that effort he was named the Outstanding Player of the Classic and the National Pitcher of the Week... In 2012 Rice improved to 11-1 with a pair of wins at Minute Maid. The highlight was Jordan Stephens earning the Most Outstanding Player honors after scattering two hits and striking out eight in an 11-1 romp of Tennessee... In 2013 Rice went winless at the tournament for the first time. The Owls had heart-wrenching loss to a North Carolina squad where both Tar Heel runs were scored on two different wild pitches. Rice had managed to out-hit UNC in the game, but the loss sent the Blue & Gray into a spin for the remainder of the weekend.

Previous Outing - Owls Fall at Home Tuesday Night vs. Sam Houston State
HOUSTON - Visiting Sam Houston State held-off a Rice rally in the bottom of the ninth inning on the way to a 3-1 win over the Rice baseball team Tuesday evening at Reckling Park... The Owls successfully beat the evening rain that moved into the area by starting the contest 35 minutes ahead of its scheduled 4:30 pm start time. By starting ahead of schedule, the game went a full nine innings without weather delays. Rain was just beginning to fall as Rice attempted to rally from two runs down in the bottom of the ninth... In that inning the Owls had a total of three base runners after hits by Skyler Ewing and Ford Stainback along with a walk in a pinch-hitting appearance by Blake Fox. Sam Houston State ended the threat to preserve a 3-1 final and improve to 8-1 overall. Rice fell to 6-3 on the season... Sam Houston posted a pair of runs in the top of the third inning, but Rice cut the margin half in the bottom of the fourth. Keenan Cook led off with a single through the left side and advanced to scoring position on a balk. He scored easily on Michael Aquino's one-out double down the left field line... Rice kept the margin to just one run by successfully working out of jams where SHSU had runners on third base in the fifth and seventh inning. The Bearkats added an unearned run in the eighth after a single and then gaining two extra stations on an Owl fielding error that made it 3-1.

Zech Lemond Garners National Preseason Honors
Junior right-handed pitcher Zech Lemond (pronounced "Zack Leh-mawn") has been named a preseason All-America by both Collegiate Baseball magazine (a second team pick) and the NCBWA (third team selection). The Golden Spikes Award, which is presented to the top amateur player in the country, has named him to its official preseason watch list. A year ago Lemond finished as the C-USA co-leader with 14 saves while posting a 7-2 record, 2.02 ERA and 1.018 WHIP. The right-hander from Houston (Waltrip High School) struck out 71 in 75.2 innings and held all opponents to a composite .207 batting average. He was a first team C-USA reliever and he went on to earn all-region honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association. Lemond's 14 saves set the new Rice single season record, eclipsing the Owls' previous mark that was shared by eventual major leaguers David Aardsma and Tony Cingrani. This season Lemond has a win and two saves in the four times he has taken the mound. He has maintained a 2.25 ERA and struck out 11 in 8.0 innings of work.

The 2014 Conference USA Favorites
IRVING, Tex. - With four preseason all-conference players, including Zech Lemond as the 2014 Preseason Pitcher of the Year, the Rice baseball team was picked to finish first in the league in the annual Conference USA head coaches' poll the C-USA office announced... The addition of seven new teams to the conference this season, and the departure of three from a year ago, has certainly changed the C-USA landscape. Coaches' respect for the Rice baseball program, however, has held steady. Twelve of the 13 C-USA head coaches voted Rice as the preseason favorite for 2014. No matter what teams have comprised the league membership since Rice joined in 2006, C-USA coaches have picked the Owls as the preseason favorite every year there has been a poll (officially eight-of-the-last-nine years as there was no coaches poll conducted in 2010). Rice's veteran standouts, including Lemond (Jr., RHP), and fellow C-USA preseason honorees Michael Aquino (Sr. OF), Shane Hoelscher (Sr., INF) and Jordan Stephens (Jr., RHP), have the full attention of the C-USA head coaches. The Owls also have a highly-touted group of incoming freshmen players making their Division I debut this spring.

2014 PRESEASON BASEBALL AWARDS (selected by C-USA's head coaches)
1. Rice (12)
2. Florida Atlantic
3. East Carolina
4. Southern Miss
5. Tulane (1)
6. FIU
8. Charlotte
9. Middle Tennessee
10. Old Dominion
11. UAB
12. Marshall
13. Louisiana Tech
(first place votes in parentheses)

Drew Reynolds, East Carolina (Senior, DH/RHP)
Aramis Garcia, FIU (Junior, Catcher)

Zech Lemond, Rice (Junior, Right-hander)

P Austin Gomber    Jr.    Florida Atlantic
P Jeff Hoffman    Jr.    East Carolina
P Jordan Stephens    Jr.    Rice
RP Zech Lemond    Jr.    Rice
C Aramis Garcia    Jr.    FIU
IF Brad Elwood    Jr.    Charlotte
IF Shane Hoelscher    Sr.    Rice
IF R.J. Perucki    Sr.    UTSA
IF Edwin Rios    So.    FIU
OF Michael Aquino    Sr.    Rice
OF Josh Eldridge    Jr.    Old Dominion
OF Ryan Stephens    Sr.    Middle Tennessee
OF Mason Robbins    Jr.    Southern Miss
DH/UT Drew Reynolds    Sr.    East Carolina

New-Look Conference USA
Seven new baseball-playing members (Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion and UTSA) joined Conference USA for the 2014 season. Those seven members join returning schools East Carolina, Marshall, Southern Miss, Tulane, UAB and Rice to create a 13 team baseball league that will play a 30-game conference schedule this season. Here's how the incoming members did a year ago:
Team    From...    Record    League
Charlotte    Atlantic 10    37-23    17-7
Florida International    Sun Belt    26-32    13-17
Florida Atlantic    Sun Belt     42-22    19-11
Louisiana Tech    WAC    19-37    6-21
Middle Tennessee    Sun Belt    28-28    11-19
Old Dominion    Colonial    30-24    15-12
UTSA    WAC    35-25    15-11

Florida Atlantic and UTSA each won their conference championships and participated in NCAA Regionals. Florida Atlantic advanced to the Chapel Hill Regional final before losing to No. 1 national seed North Carolina in extra innings.

Solid In C-USA Regular Season Action
Since its first Conference USA baseball campaign in the spring of 2006, Rice's regular-season record in C-USA league games is 148-46 (.763).

19-Straight 40-Win Seasons
Rice enters the 2014 campaign with 19-straight seasons of posting at least 40 wins. `Forty' wins actually short-changes the feat a little. The Owls have secured at least 41 wins in 18 of the last 19 years.

Postseason Streak At 19-Straight, Now Looking For 20
Rice baseball's 19-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the nation's fourth-longest active streak. In 2013 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 41st-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (36) and Cal State Fullerton (22). Rice's 19-straight NCAA Tournament bids is the sixth-longest postseason streak in Division I baseball history.

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice is 1-2 in its all-white uniforms, 1-0 in all-gray, 1-1 in blue tops with white pants and 3-0 in its new home alternate... Acting on a suggestion Owl great Lance Berkman made to his former head coach Wayne Graham, Rice baseball announced a new addition to its uniform lineup for the 2014 season. Inspired by the iconic St. Louis Cardinals' jersey, the new alternate top features two owls perched atop a bat. With Adidas as the official uniform supplier for Rice Athletics, coach Graham took Berkman's suggestion and introduced something new. "We wanted to stay with our traditional look," said coach Graham, "but also be innovative and pay homage to a classic, beautiful look like that of the Cardinals. This doesn't replace our traditional uniforms," coach Graham explained. "They are simply an addition that gives us a chance to showcase the owl mascot."

Conference Titles Streak Reaches 18-Straight
Rice has won or shared a total of 18-straight conference championships (including either regular season and/or conference tournament titles) dating back to 1996. The streak covers membership in three different leagues beginning with the Southwest Conference (1996), to nine seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1997-2005) and eight C-USA titles in as many years. The Owls shared the 2013 regular season title with co-champion Southern Miss, then won the C-USA Tournament by defeating that same Golden Eagle squad in the title game. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 18 years:
Year    Conf.    Regular Season    Conf. Tourney
2013    C-USA    tied 1st    1st
2012    C-USA    1st    tied 5th
2011    C-USA    tied 1st    1st
2010    C-USA    1st    2nd
2009    C-USA    2nd    1st
2008    C-USA    1st    tied 7th
2007    C-USA    1st    1st
2006    C-USA    1st    1st
2005    WAC    1st    no tourney
2004    WAC    1st    no tourney
2003    WAC    1st    no tourney
2002    WAC    1st    no tourney
2001    WAC    1st    no tourney
2000    WAC    tied 1st    no tourney
1999    WAC    1st    1st
1998    WAC    1st South Div.    1st
1997    WAC    1st South Div.    1st
1996    SWC    tied 6th    1st

Rice Since 1999
Using the 1999 season as the starting point (the year the NCAA expanded the postseason tournament field to 64 teams with the current Super Regional format), Rice baseball has maintained one of the nation's top win percentages over the last 15 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999 to 2013 (does NOT include 2014 games):
Team    Years    Wins    Loses    Ties    PCT
Florida State    15    748    261    1    .741
Rice    15    720    260    0    .735
North Carolina    15    694    274    1    .717
Cal State Fullerton    15    666    275    0    .708
South Carolina    15    704    294    0    .705
Coastal Carolina    15    651    277    0    .702
Texas    15    671    293    1    .696
Arizona State    15    604    265    2    .695
Oral Roberts    15    624    281    0    .690
Miami (Fla.)    15    638    294    3    .684
LSU    15    662    305    5    .684
Georgia Tech    15    639    302    1    .679
Wichita State    15    672    329    0    .671
Stanford    15    600    314    2    .656
Clemson    15    641    338    1    .655
Southern    15    464    246    0    .654
Virginia    15    587    315    3    .650
Tulane    15    600    323    2    .650
Nebraska    15    591    321    2    .648
East Carolina    15    586    321    3    .646
Fla. Atlantic    15    581    326    1    .640
Notre Dame    15    574    322    5    .640
Dallas Baptist    15    566    319    1    .639
Kent State    15    564    328    0    .632
College of Charleston    15    556    327    1    .630
Florida    15    593    350    2    .629
Ohio State    15    557    331    1    .627
Oklahoma State    15    565    337    0    .626
Oregon State    15    540    324    0    .625
TCU    15    568    342    0    .624
Texas A&M    15    583    352    3    .623
Southern Miss    15    565    347    0    .620
Mississippi    15    573    355    1    .617
Arkansas    15    572    355    1    .617



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