Owls Play Tuesday Night At No. 1 Ranked TCU

Feb. 27, 2017

E-mail baseball SID John Sullivan

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Feb. 28 (Tues.) 6:30 pm; Rice at TCU
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Owls Play Tuesday Night At No. 1 Ranked TCU
The Rice baseball team, 3-5 on the season, visits No. 1 ranked TCU on Tuesday (Feb. 28). The start time vs. the Horned Frogs (6-1) is set for 6:30 pm at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth. The Owls are making only their second trip to Fort Worth since 2001 when the teams were in the Western Athletic Conference.

Rice Returns Home Friday For Weekend Set
After the single midweek road game Rice is back home at Reckling Park from March 3-5 for a three-game weekend home series vs. west coast power Pepperdine. Game times against the Waves are set for 6:30 Friday, 2 pm Saturday and 1 pm Sunday.

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. Veteran Rice broadcaster Alex Del Barrio is also scheduled to do selected baseball games this season, including Tuesday's game at TCU.

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.

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 1,117-471 with the Owls (663-174 at home, 351-226 on the road and 101-71 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .703, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .703 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 114 games in a single year... Graham is 43-21 vs. TCU (23-7 home, 12-11 road, 8-3 neutral sites)... 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.

1,692 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,117 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,692 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,692-582 in a 35-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Probable Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham announced Rice's probable starting pitcher for the TCU game as right-handed junior Willy Amador (0-1, 5.40). This season Amador has pitched a total of 3.1 innings over two appearances. The Bryan, Texas, native has held opposing hitters to a composite .167 batting average and maintained an 8-to-1 strikeouts to walks ratio. Amador enters Tuesday's contest with the third-most career appearances (27) and innings (59.1) of any Owl on the current pitching staff.

Here's Who's Hot
Sophomore Dominic DiCaprio went 3-for-3 with a walk in Sunday's series finale against Southeastern Louisiana. Not only is DiCaprio 12-for-22 (.545) on the season with three doubles and a home run, he's also drawn seven walks in seven games for a .633 on-base average... The Owls are happy to see sophomore Ford Proctor get hot recently. Proctor is now 9-of-21 (.429) with six runs scored in the last five games... Senior Charlie Warren has hit safely in each of the last seven games to raise his early-season average to .389 (14-of-36 overall). He hit two triples over the weekend against SELA.

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.

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice's 2017 W-L records while wearing the various uniforms is as follows:
2-0 in gray `birds' tops
1-0 in all-white
0-2 in all pinstripes
0-2 in blue tops with pinstripe pants
0-1 in blue Cuba Tour jersey (with pinstripe pants)

Last Time Out: Owls Drop Series Finale at Home To SE Louisiana
HOUSTON -- Visiting Southeastern Louisiana broke a 4-4 game wide open with late runs to claim a 12-4 win over the Rice baseball team Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park in Houston... The Lions put a pair of runs on the board in the top of the first inning, but the Owls answered in the fourth. Charlie Warren and Ford Proctor hit back-to-back one-out singles and Dominic DiCaprio walked to load the bases. Warren scored on a RBI fielder's choice by Dane Myers to make it 2-1... SELA came right back with two more runs on three hits in the top of the fifth to go up 4-1. The Owls answered with three in the bottom of the frame to tie the score, 4-4. Consecutive singles by Robbie Lammons, Darryn Sheppard and Chace Sarchet loaded the stations. Charlie Warren drove them all home with a triple into the left field corner... The score was deadlocked after six innings, but the Lions took the lead with pair of unearned runs in the seventh before scoring five in the eighth and one more in the ninth. Each of the final eight runs ended up being unearned as Rice committed five fielding errors over the final three innings. Both teams finished the game with an identical total of ten hits... Rice is now 3-5 overall. Southeastern Louisiana won the weekend series two games to one to improve to 4-2 on 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
6. Charlotte
tie. FIU
8. Marshall
9. UAB
10. Middle Tennessee
tie. UTSA
12. WKU
(first place votes in parentheses)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ford Proctor, Rice (Sophomore, IF)

PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Glenn Otto, Rice (Junior, Right-hander)

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
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
First Team
RHP       Glenn Otto

National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association
Second Team
RHP       Glenn Otto
Third Team
RHP       Ricardo Salinas

D1Baseball.com
Third Team
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 - On Nov. 25, 2016, 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 its international tour last fall... 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... 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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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