March 3 (Tues.) 6:30 pm; Rice at TCU
Watch the game live on Fox Sports Southwest, or FSSW+
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The Rice baseball team, 8-5 overall and ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation, visits No. 1 ranked TCU on Tuesday (March 3). The start time vs. the Horned Frogs (7-1) is set for 6:30 pm at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth. The contest is scheduled for a live television broadcast in the Houston area on FOX Sports Southwest. Other areas of the state game will be on FOX Sports Southwest-Plus (FSSW+). The Owls are making their first trip to Fort Worth since 2001 when the teams were in the Western Athletic Conference.
Owls Open C-USA League Play on Friday Night at Charlotte
The Owls continue their longest road-swing of the young season by opening Conference USA league play with a three-game weekend series at Charlotte on March 6-8. Start times against the 49ers are set for 3 pm Friday, 1 pm Saturday and 11 am on Sunday. (All times listed are Central Time). Rice and Charlotte is the first and only C-USA series of the weekend. The remaining conference schools make their respective league debuts on March 13.
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 2015 season is, however, only the Owls' 99th 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 1,954 - 1,533 - 9.
Tuesday Night's Game One of Nine Radio Broadcasts This Season
Rice baseball returns to the radio airwaves for nine games in 2015 as part of an agreement between Rice IMG Sports Properties and ESPN Deportes Houston (1180 am). The slate of on-air games began with the season-opener vs. Texas. It was the first time since 2010 that Owls baseball has been available on radio. The nine games selected include six at home and three on the road, with five games slated for Fridays and four others on Tuesday nights. The series-opener vs. Stanford last Friday night (Feb. 27) was an 1180-broadcast. Tuesday vs. TCU is scheduled to be the next broadcast, followed by the road contest at Texas A&M (April 7). The radio schedule also includes a pair of games with crosstown rivals Houston (April 14 & May 12). Each broadcast will be preceded by a 15-minute pregame show.
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. Fans attending home games can listen to the Rice broadcast at Reckling Park via an FM proximity transmitter. The FM frequencies for the in-stadium broadcasts at Reckling Park is 99.7 FM. J.P. Heath is back for his seventh season as the regular voice of the Owls. Fellow Rice broadcasters like Alex Del Barrio are also scheduled to do selected games over the course of the season.
Follow The Tweeting Rice Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceOwlsBSB while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceOwlsdotcom.
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, the baseball schedule page.
National Rankings Update Owls Hold Spot In Top 10
Rice is nationally-ranked in a host of different college baseball polls. The Owls have held their spot in the latest D1Baseball.com ranking. Here's a closer look at some of the latest national rankings, and changes from last week (as available at press time):
Poll Current Previous
D1Baseball.com 10 10
College Sports Madness 10 10
NCBWA 11 11
Baseball America 15 14
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 16 12
PerfectGame.com 21 20
CollegeBaseballDaily.com (tba) 10
High RPI: No. 14 In 2014
If you have disdain for the politics of the various baseball polls and prefer the cold, hard math of the NCAA's Rating Power Index (RPI), you'll have to wait a little longer. The NCAA is not scheduled to release the updated RPI just yet. A year ago the Owls had the No. 14 RPI in the nation.
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 24th season at Rice. The 2015 campaign marks his 35th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,047-425 with the Owls (625-158 at home, 325-206 on the road and 97-61 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .711, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .711 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 115 games in a single year... Graham's record vs. this week's opponents is: 43-18 vs. TCU, and 0-0 vs. Charlotte... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2014, making 20-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. 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 and 2014, 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 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; tenth year), Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; fourth year) and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; third year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Shepherd coaches at first.
1,621 Wins A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,047 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,621 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,621-537 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.
Coach Graham announced Rice's probable starting pitcher for the TCU game as junior left-hander Austin Solecitto (0-0, 0.00). Coach Graham will announce the remaining Rice starters for the C-USA weekend series at Charlotte at a later time.
Austin Solecitto is in his first season at Rice after transferring from Howard College in Big Spring, Texas. The junior left-hander has made six appearances out of the bullpen this season where he is 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 7.0 total innings. Solecitto made his Owl debut on opening day against longtime rival Texas, and fired 2.0 scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts. He then made two appearances at Pac-12 foe Arizona before striking out the side in his only inning of work one week ago against Stephen F. Austin (Feb. 25). The native of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, returned two nights later and threw a season-long 3.0 frames in the series-opener against national power Stanford, where he scattered two hits and struck out four. With a 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and an opponents' batting average of .227, coach Graham has liked what he has seen. A start for Solecitto would be his first at the Division I level since 2013, when he played his freshman year in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Boston College.
Previous Outing: Owls Thump Pac-12 Power Stanford, 12-1
HOUSTON -- The Rice baseball team pounded out 15 hits and had solid start on the mound from junior right-hander Austin Orewiler on the way to a convincing 12-1 victory over visiting Stanford in the series finale Sunday at Reckling Park... The Owls and Cardinal split the four-game weekend series 2-2. Rice end-up holding a 27-15 advantage in runs, with a composite 1.25 ERA from the pitching staff... Rice took control of the contest early. The Owls jumped on the scoreboard for three runs in the bottom of the first inning on three hits and a walk. John Clay Reeves' drove in two with a single through the left side and scored on Connor Teykl's double to right... There was still a lot of baseball left to be played after just one inning, but the 3-0 margin proved to be all the room Orewiler would need. The Galveston, Texas, native held the Cardinal in check for a career-long 7.2 innings, scattering just three hits and three walks while striking out one to move to 2-0 on the season... Orewiler's defense was steady all day long, such as the key double-play to help avoid a run in the top of the second after a leadoff double. The lone Cardinal score was in the third after hitting a batter with two away, followed by a tricky RBI double to left by Alex Dunlap that dropped just inside the line in shallow left field... "We really had just a quality game - hitting, pitching, and fielding well against a very good team," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "This may have been our best game we've played so far... "Austin has improved so much," Coach Graham added. "He threw strikes today, which is all we need him to do... "Yesterday (in a narrow 3-1 loss in game three of the series) we had runners on base and didn't do anything with those chances," he explained. "We had a much better approach at the plate today. We got the lead early and that helped. It was just a great day all-around."... Rice responded to Stanford's run in the third with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame to make it 4-1. The Owls pushed across two more in the fifth on Kirby Taylor's two-out single that drove-in two. The Blue & Gray then exploded for six in the bottom of the sixth that stretched the margin to 12-1... Orewiler meanwhile was in a groove, retiring 15-of-16 batters before leaving to a loud ovation from the Reckling Park fans in the top of the eighth. He was relieved by southpaw John Williamson, who fanned all four of the batters he faced to end the game... Reeves led all players with three hits, including a double, to go along with three runs scored. Four different Owls scored at least two runs. Taylor tallied in a career-high four RBI with a pair of hits... Rice is now 8-5 on the season. Stanford is 6-6 overall.
This & That - Hitter Edition
Rice had double-digit hits in each of its first nine games to start the season. The team is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation in hits per game (11.8)... The Owls enter the week hitting .326 as a team, and out-hitting opponents by almost 100 percentage points (.232). The Blue & Gray collected 15 hits in Sunday's series finale against Stanford, one off the season-high 16 the team had on the road against another Pac-12 foe, Arizona... Stanford had trouble containing Owl veteran Ford Stainback in the four-game weekend series at Reckling Park. The senior second baseman batted a composite .429, going 6-for-14 with four walks for a .556 on-base percentage. He turned his opportunities on the bases into a team-best six runs, helping Rice split the four-game weekend series, 2-2. In addition to driving in a run in the come-from behind win in the series' second game, Stainback also had a double in Sunday's series finale for an slugging percentage of .500. The Dallas native was error-free in 13 chances in the field and helped turn or start two double plays... True freshman Ryan Chandler has made a splash in his first three weeks of Division I baseball. The rookie centerfielder has batted leadoff and reached base every game. Over the team's last six games he is 11-for-28 (.393) with three doubles for a .500 slugging percentage. Chandler has also scored five times and driven-in five runs over his last six games... Keep an eye on junior catcher Hunter Kopycinski, who is now 6-for-his-last-16 (.375)... Freshman third baseman Tristan Gray belted his first career home run Saturday against Stanford, a three-run shot helped the Blue & Gray come back to tie the score, 6-6. Gray's father, former Owl letterman Jason Gray, finished his Rice career in 2000 with 23 career home runs - so the chase is on, dad.
This & That - Pitcher Edition
The Rice pitchers have maintained a composite 2.28 ERA in 118.2 innings... The hurlers average exactly 9.0 strikeouts per game with a 3.0-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio... As a staff the Owl pitchers have faced a bases-loaded situation 12 times in 13 games this season, but only once has an opposing batter managed to hit safely... Junior left-hander Blake Fox is 19-0 in his Rice career after 38 appearances, including 20 starting assignments. Fox did not get any help from his defense on the way to getting charged with six unearned runs in Saturday's first game against Stanford, but the offense finally came around to help keep his win streak alive in an eventual 11-6 victory... On Sunday Rice junior right-hander Austin Orewiler held the Cardinal in check for a career-long 7.2 innings, scattering just three hits and three walks while striking out one to move to 2-0 on the season. During one stretch Orewiler retired 15-of-16 batters. His full-week totals were actually 8.2 innings of allowing just one earned run because he also fired a scoreless frame in relief against the Cardinal in the series in the series-opener on Friday night. For the two appearances last week the Galveston, Texas, native held all Stanford hitters to a combined .138 batting average... Junior reliever Matt Ditman now needs just 1.1 innings to reach 100 for his collegiate career. In 98.2 career innings Ditman's strikeouts-to-walks ratio is 110-to-21, or 5.2-to-1.
Many Happy Returns
Redshirt junior RHP Jordan Stephens made his third appearance of the season on Feb. 28 in Saturday's second game of the Stanford double-header. Stephens pitched a season-long 2.1 innings and recorded a season-best three strikeouts... Freshman transfer Josh Pettitte made his second career appearance in game one of the Stanford twinbill and, like Stephens, posted a season-high three strikeouts in a season-long 2.1 innings.
National Postseason Streak At 20-Straight
Rice baseball's 20-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the nation's fourth-longest active streak. In 2014 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 42nd-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (37) and Cal State Fullerton (23). Rice's 20-straight NCAA Tournament bids is the sixth-longest postseason streak in Division I baseball history.
Conference Titles Streak Now At 19-Straight
Rice has won or shared a total of 19-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 now nine C-USA titles in as many years. The Owls won the 2014 C-USA regular season title by a comfortable three-game margin, then completed the title sweep by taking the league tournament last in Hattiesburg, Miss. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 19 years:
Year Conf. Regular Season Conf. Tourney
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
20-Straight 40-Win Seasons
Rice has clinched 20-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 19 of the last 20 years.
Solid In C-USA Regular Season
Since its first Conference USA baseball campaign in the spring of 2006, Rice's regular-season record in C-USA league games is 169-53 (.761).
Big Opening Series
Rice baseball has a long-history of testing itself with some tough, but very popular, early-season non-conference series - like the opening weekend vs. Texas. The average attendance of that four-game series (4,297) crushed the previous best opening weekend attendance average in Reckling Park history from two years ago. Here's how some other opening weekends have added-up. (Note that many of the previous opening weekends were in a tournament format where the Owls played against three different opponents on consecutive days.)
Year 1st Weekend Average
2015 *17,191 4,297
2013 12,237 4,079
2011 12,182 4,060
2009 10,950 3,650
2004 10,117 3,372
2012 9,615 3,205
2010 9,198 3,066
Facing An Opponent Four Times
Rice played both Texas and Stanford four-game series, but it's not so unheard-of to play one team four times in a college season. When including the game in last season's NCAA Regional, Rice and Texas met a total of four times over the course of 2014. The Owls played three C-USA regular season games against FIU, Middle Tennessee and UTSA last season, and then added a fourth against those same teams near the end of the year in the conference tournament. A year ago Rice ended up playing league foe Old Dominion five times after meeting the Monarchs twice in the conference tournament.
Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice's 2015 W-L records while wearing the various uniforms is as follows:
2-0 in blue tops with pinstripe pants,
1-0 in the gray `birds' top
5-1 in the white `birds' top
0-2 in all-white,
0-1 in all-gray,
0-1 in the home alternate (`Old English R')
Nine (9) Televised Games In Regular Season
The people in the business of selecting games for television broadcasts have a good idea of the teams the public want to see. So far nine Rice regular season games are slated for a TV broadcast and that number could still grow over the course of the year, not including a possible TV appearance in the championship final of the C-USA Tournament in late May. Here is Rice's "starting nine" in the upcoming TV lineup:
Feb. 20 (Fri.) at Arizona, PAC-12 Network;
Feb. 21 (Sat.) at Arizona, PAC-12 Network
Feb. 22 (Sun.) at Arizona, PAC-12 Network
Mar. 3 (Tues.) at TCU, FOXSSW+
Mar. 27 (Fri.) vs. Southern Miss, FOX Sports 1;
Apr. 18 (Sat.) vs. UTSA, ASN
Apr. 26 (Sun.) at Western Kentucky, ASN
May 9 (Sat.) at Florida Atlantic, ASN
May 16 (Sat.) vs. FIU, FOX Sports Net
The 2015 Conference USA Favorites
IRVING, Texas - With three preseason all-conference players, including the Owl battery of Blake Fox and John Clay Reeves as the respective 2015 Preseason Pitcher and Player of the Year, the Rice baseball team was picked to finish first in the league in the annual Conference USA head coaches' poll. All twelve of the C-USA head coaches voted Rice as the preseason favorite for 2015. Since joining the conference in 2006 the Owls have been the league favorite every year there has been a poll (officially nine-of-the-last-ten years as there was no coaches poll conducted in 2010). This season Owls return five offensive starters in the batting order and a host of veteran pitchers who helped lead last year's squad to a 42-20 overall record, the C-USA regular season and tournament titles, and to a home NCAA Regional at Reckling Park. Rice's veteran standouts, including Fox (Jr., LHP), Reeves (Sr., C), and fellow C-USA preseason honoree Matt Ditman (Jr., RHP), all have the full attention of the C-USA head coaches.
2015 PRESEASON BASEBALL AWARDS (selected by C-USA's head coaches)
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Rice (12)
3. Old Dominion
4. Southern Miss
6. Florida Atlantic
8. Middle Tennessee
12. Louisiana Tech
(first place votes in parentheses)
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
John Clay Reeves, Rice (Senior, C)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Blake Fox, Rice (Junior, Left-hander)
PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
P Blake Fox Jr. Rice
P Alex Luna Sr. UAB
P Chris Mourelle So. FIU
RP Matt Ditman Jr. Rice
C John Clay Reeves Sr. Rice
IF Josh Anderson Sr. FIU
IF Ryan Church Sr. WKU
IF P.J. Higgins Jr. Old Dominion
IF Taylor Love Jr. Louisiana Tech
IF Stephen Kerr So. Florida Atlantic
OF Jared Allen Sr. Middle Tennessee
OF Brendon Sanger Jr. Florida Atlantic
OF Nick Walker So. Old Dominion
DH/UT Matt Durst Sr. Southern Miss)
Take A Closer Look At Last Year
Rice had 20 losses in 2014, but a closer look is in order. More than one-third of the losses (7) were to teams that were nationally-ranked when the Owls faced them. Nine of the 20 losses were by a single run - of which three were in extra innings and another was in the bottom of the ninth. The final margin in 13 of the losses was two runs (or less). Also consider that the Owls saw a number of last season's star players, including Jordan Stephens, Zech Lemond, Shane Hoelscher, Leon Byrd and John Clay Reeves, all sidelined at various points during the season.
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 16 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999 to 2014:
Team Years Wins Loses Ties PCT
Florida State 16 791 278 1 .740
Rice 16 762 280 0 .731
North Carolina 16 729 301 1 .708
South Carolina 16 748 312 0 .706
Cal St. Fullerton 16 700 299 0 .701
Texas 16 717 314 1 .695
Arizona State 16 637 289 2 .688
LSU 16 708 321 6 .687
Coastal Carolina 16 675 310 0 .685
Miami (Fla.) 16 682 313 3 .685
Oral Roberts 16 654 307 0 .681
Georgia Tech 16 676 329 1 .672
Wichita State 16 703 357 0 .663
Virginia 16 640 331 3 .659
Stanford 16 635 340 2 .651
Clemson 16 677 363 1 .651
Nebraska 16 632 342 2 .649
East Carolina 16 619 347 3 .640
Tulane 16 623 352 2 .639
Southern 16 474 272 0 .635
Florida Atlantic 16 609 351 1 .634
C. of Charleston 16 600 346 1 .634
Oregon State 16 585 338 0 .634
Oklahoma State 16 613 355 0 .633
TCU 16 616 360 0 .631
Kent State 16 600 351 0 .631
Florida 16 633 373 2 .629
Notre Dame 16 596 353 5 .627
Mississippi 16 621 376 1 .623
Louisville 16 607 368 1 .622
Texas A&M 16 619 378 3 .621
Ohio State 16 587 359 1 .620
Vanderbilt 16 607 374 0 .619
UL-Lafayette 16 604 372 1 .619
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' 2014 fall training was no exception. Newcomers like true freshmen Ricardo Salinas and Ryan Chandler turned in sound and solid outings to give themselves a possible wealth of playing time this spring. Salinas maintained a 2.35 ERA in 23.0 fall innings while striking out 17 with a .227 opponents' batting average. Chandler, a local prep star from Strake Jesuit, batted .294 while playing sensational defense in centerfield... Freshman Glenn Otto distinguished himself as a right-handed option on the mound... Junior shortstop Leon Byrd meanwhile showed perhaps the biggest improvement over the last calendar year while batting a team-best .431 with a .608 fall slugging percentage.
Owls Ink Eight In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program has signed eleven high school standouts in the early period who will join the team for the 2016 season. The list of newest Owls includes: Dominic DiCaprio, Zachary Esquivel, Kendal Jefferies, Gavin Johnson, Jackson Parthasarathy, Jay Proctor, Braden Rollins, Brent Schwarz, Jacob Simon, Cody Staab, and Lucas Wakamatsu. The group consists of four pitchers, two catchers, two infielders, an outfielder and two multi-position players who are versatile enough to contribute as both a pitcher and/or position player/hitter. All are from the high school ranks. Eight are from Texas and two are from the greater Houston area.
The Chase Is On!
Senior pitcher Chase McDowell fired 6.0 scoreless innings and helped his own cause by going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI at the plate as the Rice baseball team defeated longtime rival TCU 5-0 Tuesday night at Reckling Park.