The Rice baseball team, 8-6 overall and ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation, continues its 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. The start times against the red-hot 49ers (4-2) 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.
Audio Broadcasts - Catch Every Rice Baseball Game On The Web
Every Rice baseball game this season is scheduled for a live audio broadcast 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. Del Barrio has the call for the Charlotte series, giving him a (baseball) career-long streak of four-straight games.
Follow The Tweeting Rice Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceOwlsBSB while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceOwlsdotcom. Twitter is perhaps the fastest way to get weather-related changes to the schedule/updated start times.
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.
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 - 1,534 - 9.
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 1,047-426 with the Owls (625-158 at home, 325-207 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 weekend's opponent is: 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 1,621-538 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.
Coach Graham announced Rice's first two probable starting pitchers for the Charlotte series as junior right-hander Kevin McCanna (1-1, 2.81) on Friday, followed by junior left-hander Blake Fox (1-0, 3.57) on Saturday. Coach Graham will announce the final Rice starter at a later time.
Kevin McCanna is a veteran with 36 appearances in his collegiate career, including 20 starting assignments. In three starts this year facing the Friday night pitchers (ie: the `best') from Texas, Arizona and Stanford, McCanna owns a 2.81 ERA in 16.0 innings of work. He has held opposing batters to a composite .274 average with a strikeout per inning, and maintained a 2.0-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio... A year ago McCanna finished second on the team, and eighth in Conference USA, in both victories (8) and innings pitched (93.2). He pitched into the seventh inning in 7-of-12 starts, with one of the early departures at 6.0 innings vs. Purdue after the Owls had built a comfortable 20-3 lead. The Woodlands, Texas, native averaged 6.2 innings and held opponents to a .247 batting average as a starter. McCanna also averaged a 6.3 strikeouts per 9.0 innings and maintained a 2.7-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He began 2014 as the "Sunday" pitcher in the weekend rotation (in addition to four relief appearances and one midweek start), before being promoted to a new "Friday night" role for the remainder of the year. McCanna thrived as the series-opening pitcher, winning 5-of-7 outings while maintaining a steady 1.76 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP in 51.0 innings. He was the opening pitcher in the C-USA Tournament and held heavy-hitting FIU to a pair of runs over 7.1 innings. The righty then returned just four days later to pitch another 4.0 frames in relief in the Championship Final against a UTSA squad that defeated him in the regular season. The former TWHS Highlander had a good case to be named to the league's all-tournament team, going 2-0 with a composite 2.38 ERA for 11.1 total innings (but was somehow overlooked by the voting attending members of the media). McCanna started the Owls' opening game of the NCAA Regional against Atlantic 10 Conference champion George Mason, where he allowed just one earned run on three hits with five strikeouts over 7.1 innings in a no-decision. He fired a complete game, 9.0 inning shutout in the opener of a key C-USA series against league runner-up UAB, propelling his team to a three-game sweep of the Blazers. It's worth noting that with the sweep the Owls went on to win the C-USA regular season crown over that same UAB team by exactly three games. It's equally notable the 9-inning gem was not McCanna's longest outing of the season. Rice has had dozens and dozens of complete games pitched the last few years, but in a March 8 start against eventual NCAA Tournament-bound Old Dominion, McCanna went 9.1 innings for the longest outing by an Owl pitcher in more than a decade.
A host of news organizations have a preseason All-America team leading up to the 2015 campaign, and Blake Fox was on just about every one of them. In three starts this year Fox is 1-0 and averaging just under 6.0 innings per outing... The Owls' junior left-hander is undefeated in his Rice career, posting a perfect 19-0 record in a total of 38 appearances dating back to his freshman season of 2013. One of three finalists for the 2014 National Pitcher of the Year by the College Baseball Hall of Fame, Fox responded to his new role in the weekend rotation with aplomb - winning 12-of-15 "Saturday starts" while maintaining a steady 1.46 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He was the first Owl to win 12 games in a single season since 2006. The former prep standout from nearby Episcopal HS finished fifth in the nation, and led C-USA, in victories. Fox was 13th in Division I, and second in the league, in ERA. Fox also ranked among the C-USA leaders in starts (third, 15), hits-per-9 innings (9th, 7.57), strikeouts (11th, 69) and WHIP (11th). His wins were over eventual College World Series participant TCU at Minute Maid Park, nationally ranked Stanford and FIU on the road, Southern Miss, East Carolina, UTSA, FAU, Tulane, LA Tech, Purdue and Middle Tennessee (twice). He pitched into the seventh inning in 14-of-15 starts, with the lone exception being 5.1 innings against Purdue where the Owls had already built a 7-1 advantage by the 6th (and went on to win 9-1). Fox went a career-long 8.1 innings on the road at Tulane where he tied a career-best with eight strikeouts. He held all opponents to a .236 batting average and maintained a 2.6-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. In a preseason poll of the 12 C-USA head coaches, Fox was named the 2015 C-USA Pitcher of Year. Pitching was only part of the story, however. Fox is a versatile enough athlete that in 2014 he made seven additional appearances either as a first baseman, designated hitter or pinch hitter (against right-handed pitching).
Previous Outing: Owls Fall On The Road at No. 1 Ranked TCU
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Rice baseball team was touched for two runs in the top of the first inning and that was all the room TCU needed on the way to a 3-1 win over the Owls Tuesday evening at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas... The game may have been a little delayed to start, but TCU was quick to get on the scoreboard. The Horned Frogs plated two runs in the first on three hits, an Owl fielding error and a wild pitch... In the bottom of the fourth TCU's Cody Jones punched a two-out single through the right side. He stole second to move into scoring position and scored on Connor Wanhanen's base hit up the middle to stretch the margin to 3-0.. Rice scattered six hits across the first seven innings. It wasn't until getting three hits in the top of the eighth that the Owls pushed across a run. Ford Stainback reached on an infield hit and John Clay Reeves lined a two-out single through the left side. Connor Teykl followed with a looping RBI single that dropped in near the left field line to make it 3-1... Six Owl pitchers saw action on the night. Austin Solecitto started and struck out three in 2.2 innings. He was followed by Ricardo Salinas (1 inn.), Glenn Otto (0.2), John Williamson (2.0), Josh Pettitte (0.2) and Matt Ditman (1.0). The Frogs also used pitchers in their first game since Feb. 25... Rice is now 8-6 overall. The Owls finished with nine hits on the night. TCU is 8-1 on the season.
Berkman To Be Inducted Into College Baseball Hall of Fame
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Former Rice Owl great Lance Berkman has been selected for induction into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame later this summer, the College Baseball Foundation announced Wednesday (March 4) from its headquarters in Lubbock, Texas... Joining Berkman in the 2015 College Baseball Hall of Fame induction class are Frank Viola, a Cy Young Award winner, World Series MVP and three-time major league all-star who led St. John's to the 1980 College World Series; Joe Arnold, a two-time NJCAA All-American pitcher at Miami-Dade who also earned Most Valuable Player honors at the 1966 NJCAA World Series; Larry Hays, who is one of only eight coaches at any level of college baseball with 1,500 wins; Al Holland, a ten-year major league pitcher and collegiate star at North Carolina A&T; Bill Holowaty, the third-winningest coach in NCAA Division III history; Mike Kelly, who was the consensus national player of the year in 1990 and winner of the 1991 Golden Spikes Award; and Rick Reichardt, who won the first recognized collegiate national player of the year award in 1964. The induction ceremony is set for June 29, in Lubbock... Before he became a six-time major league all-star and 2011 World Series champion, Berkman amassed 67 home runs, 272 RBI and a .385 batting average in his collegiate career at Rice (1995-97). He led the Owls to the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1995, and first College World Series appearance in 1997, when he was named the National Player of the Year and was unanimous All-America selection. That season he won the Western Athletic Conference triple crown with a .431 average, 41 homers and 134 RBI, as well as being the league leader in runs (109) and hits (110). The New Braunfels, Texas, native was a first-round MLB draft pick in 1997 (16th player selected overall) by the Houston Astros, who eventually led that franchise to its first World Series appearance in 2005... "This class features players and coaches with some incredible superlatives," said Mike Gustafson, executive director of the College Baseball Hall of Fame. "There are some unique and outstanding accomplishments by the individuals in this class. Our voting committees consists of longtime college baseball media members, active and former coaches, retired umpires, past inductees, college baseball historians and in several cases they are also former players," Gustafson added. "I commend them on another outstanding job."... Berkman joins Owl head coach Wayne Graham in National College Baseball Hall of Fame. Coach Graham was inducted in the 2012 class... "I can't imagine a more deserving player for this honor than Lance," coach Graham said. "He had one of the greatest years in the history of college baseball (in 1997) to help get us to Omaha. He is one of the prime players who elevated our program in so many ways. Congratulations to Lance, and all the new inductees."... Tickets for the 2015 induction will be available in May on the Hall of Fame's website at www.collegebaseballhall.org... For more information, contact Mike Gustafson, National College Baseball Hall of Fame president and CEO, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did You Know?
There have been plenty of players who have hit 40 home runs in a major league season, but just four Division I players who have hit 40 homers in the significantly shorter collegiate season. Lance Berkman is the only person on both these lists. He clubbed 41 round-trippers at Rice in 1997, and then had two 40-plus homer seasons with the Houston Astros - in 2002 (42 HR) and 2006 (45 HR).
Conference Openers & Opening Conference Series
The Owls are 12-6 in conference openers dating back to 1997. The Blue & Gray have also won 14 of the last 18 three-game series to begin conference play.
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,
5-1 in the white `birds' top
1-1 in the gray `birds' top
0-2 in all-white,
0-1 in all-gray,
0-1 in the home alternate (`Old English R')
This & That - Hitter Edition
Rice had double-digit hits in each of its first nine games to start the season. The team entered the week ranked No. 2 in the nation in hits per game (and is now at 11.6 hits per game)... The Owls enter the week hitting .321 as a team, and out-hitting opponents by almost 90 percentage points (.235). 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 in base every game. Over the team's last seven games he is 12-for-32 (.375) with three doubles for a .469 slugging percentage. Chandler has also scored five times, driven-in five runs and stole a base over his last seven games... Keep an eye on junior catcher Hunter Kopycinski, who is now 8-for-his-last-20 (.400)... 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 2.34 ERA in 126.2 innings... The hurlers average 8.9 strikeouts per game with a 3.1-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio... As a staff the Owl pitchers have faced a bases-loaded situation 13 times in 14 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. Fox was in danger of seeing his unbeaten streak snapped last week in Saturday's first game against Stanford, but did not get any help from his defense on the way to getting charged with six unearned runs. The Rice 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-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 pitched one inning at TCU on Tuesday night and now needs just one-third of an inning to reach 100 for his collegiate career. In 99.2 career innings Ditman's strikeouts-to-walks ratio is 112-to-21, or 5.3-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.
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).
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.
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.
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.