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Owls Open C-USA Action Friday vs. Old Dominion

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March 6, 2014

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Mar. 7 (Fri.) 6:30 pm; Old Dominion at Rice
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Mar. 8 (Sat.) 10 am; Old Dominion at Rice ; Game 1 of double-header
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Old Dominion at Rice; Game 2 of double-header (begins 30 minutes after Game 1)
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All times listed are Central Time. Internet features activate at game time.

Rice Baseball Opens C-USA Action at Home on Friday Night;
Double-header Now Scheduled for Saturday

The Rice baseball team, 8-5 overall and ranked as high as No. 17 in the country in one national poll, returns home to Reckling Park to open Conference USA league action with a three-game weekend series vs. Old Dominion University on March 7-8. Rice's C-USA opener is the first of five-straight home games lasting until March 12. Start times against the ODU Monarchs are set for 6:30 pm Friday, and a new double-header on Saturday (March 8) beginning at 10 am.

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. Use the above link to access the Internet audio page. 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 in his sixth season as the voice of the Owls. For some selected home games he will be joined in the Rice broadcast booth by Jimmy Baseball, aka letterman and "R" Association Director Jimmy Comerota.

Watch Rice's C-USA Games On OwlVision All Access Reckling Park home games and C-USA league games are slated for a live on-line video broadcast by OwlVision All Access. OwlVision is a subscription-based service which matches play-by-play audio with a video feed to create a television-like broadcast on the Internet (either live or in an archived format). The service has been growing in popularity the last few years. Information about the service and subscription prices are available here. Access the service directly on game day at the above links.

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 1,912 - 1,514 - 9.

National Rankings Update • Owls Ranked As High As No. 17
Rice is nationally-ranked in a host of different college baseball polls. The Owls are rated as the No. 17 team in the nation in the PerfectGame.com weekly poll. Here's a closer look at some of the latest national rankings, and changes from the previous week:

Poll This Week Last Week
PerfectGame.com 17 12
NCBWA 18 10
Baseball America 18 12
USA Today 19 15
College Sports Madness 22 11
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 29 15

 

 



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.

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 1,005-405 with the Owls (602-147 at home, 310-199 on the road games and 93-59 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 115 games in a single year... Graham's record vs. this week's opponents is as follows: 0-0 vs. Old Dominion. 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.

1,579 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,005 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,579 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,579-518 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Rice Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham has announced the first two starting pitchers of the Old Dominion series. Junior right-hander Zech Lemond (1-0, 1.64) will start on Friday night, followed by sophomore left-hander Blake Fox (3-0, 0.52) in Saturday's first game of the double-header. Coach Graham will announce the game three starter at a later time.
Though he may be most-noted as the Rice "stopper" with 18 saves in his collegiate career, Lemond is no stranger to starting games. The Houston native has started total of three games, but two of those were some of the team's biggest games the last two years. In 2012 he made his starting debut at home against an Arizona team that went on to win the NCAA National Championship. In that outing Lemond worked 5.0 innings, allowing two runs on four hits in a no-decision. Last season he answered the call to start on the road at No. 6 ranked Oregon in the final game of the NCAA Regional, and responded with a career-high tying 6.2 innings. He struck out seven Oregon hitters and walked one as Rice won the game and went on to play in the NCAA Super Regionals.
Blake Fox has responded to his new role in the weekend rotation with aplomb, winning all three of his Saturday starts while maintaining an austere 0.52 ERA and a 0.923 WHIP. His wins have been over nationally ranked Stanford on the road, No. 10 ranked TCU at Minute Maid Park and Purdue. The Houston native has held all opponents to a .217 batting average, but his sophomore campaign is only part of the story. Fox is undefeated in Rice collegiate career, posting a 9-0 record in a total of 23 appearances dating back to 2013.
Old Dominion announced its starting rotation for the weekend as senior left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (1-1, 3.18), sophomore right-hander Tommy Alexander (1-0, 2.51), and senior left-hander Andy Roberts (1-0, 3.21).

Conference Openers & Conference Series Openers
Rice begins its quest for a 19th-consecutive conference championship on Friday night. The Owls are 11-6 in conference openers dating back to 1997. The Blue & Gray have also won 13 of the last 17 three-game series to begin conference play. Rice is looking for a second-straight win of a league-opening series. A year ago the Owls were thumped in the C-USA opener by Southern Miss on the road in Hattiesburg, Miss., 10-1. The Owls bounced back to claim that weekend series two games to one, which ended up being the tie-breaker for determining the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament in late May.

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.

Rice's Tough Schedule Deserves A Closer Look
Rice has five losses, but a closer look at the opponents is in order. Three of the losses were to teams that were nationally-ranked when the Owls faced them. Another one of the losses was to a streaking Sam Houston State team that has now entered the Baseball America Top 20. Rice has three victories over ranked teams, including two on the road at Stanford and one vs. TCU last weekend at the neutral site of Minute Maid Park. Also note the final margin in Rice's losses has been two runs or less three times.

Previous Outing - Owls Win Wednesday Night at Sam Houston State
HUNTSVILLE, Tex. -- The Rice baseball team scored runs in five of the nine innings, highlighted by a four-run fifth, to claim an 8-5 road victory over Sam Houston State Wednesday night in Huntsville, Texas. Rice was first on the scoreboard, posting a run in the top of the third. Sophomore shortstop Leon Byrd laced a hard one-out double down the left field line. He advanced to third on a ground out to the right side and scored on a two-out single by Michael Aquino. The Owls doubled the margin to 2-0 in the top of the fourth. Junior catcher John Clay Reeves led off with a solo home run near the left field pole for his first round-tripper of the year. Sam Houston came right back and tied the contest in the bottom of the frame. A Rice fielding error helped prolong the Bearkats' at bats that resulted in two unearned runs. In the top of the fifth the Owls took advantage of a SHSU miscue for a total of four runs on two hits and two walks. The Blue & Gray added a run in the top of the sixth after a two-base Bearkat error, a wild pitch and sacrifice fly by Byrd. That made the score 7-2 and gave Rice starting pitcher Chase McDowell breathing room. The senior right-hander worked a total of 6.2 innings where he allowed just one earned run while striking out five. He later helped his own cause by hitting an RBI double in the top of the eighth. Sam Houston would not go away so easily at home and rallied for a run in the seventh before another two in the eighth. Owl right-hander Austin Orewiler pitched a scoreless ninth for his first career save and an 8-5 final score. Rice is now 8-5 on the season. Sam Houston State, which had earned a national ranking earlier in the week, dropped to 10-3 overall.

Fox Named To All-College Classic Team
Last week at the College Classic Tournament, sophomore left-hander Blake Fox fired 6.0 shutout innings against No. 12 ranked TCU to earn his third win of the season without a loss. The Houston native scattered five singles with two walks while striking out seven. For his efforts Fox was named to the College Classic All-Tournament Team.

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 three saves in the five times he has taken the mound. He has maintained a 1.64 ERA and struck out 12 in 11.0 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)
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Rice (12)
2. Florida Atlantic
3. East Carolina
4. Southern Miss
5. Tulane (1)
6. FIU
7. UTSA
8. Charlotte
9. Middle Tennessee
10. Old Dominion
11. UAB
12. Marshall
13. Louisiana Tech
(first place votes in parentheses)

CO-PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Drew Reynolds, East Carolina (Senior, DH/RHP)
Aramis Garcia, FIU (Junior, Catcher)

PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Zech Lemond, Rice (Junior, Right-hander)

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
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, 1-1 in all-gray, 1-1 in blue tops with white pants, 1-1 in blue tops with gray pants and a perfect 4-0 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

Owls Ink Eight In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program signed eight high school standouts in November who will join the team for the 2015 season. The Owls' latest signing class includes four 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 and seven of the eight are from the greater-Houston area who will be able to have their family and hometown fans continue to watch them play games at Rice's Reckling Park. The class includes Rhp/C Willy Amador from Bryan, Texas, infielders Tristan Gray of Missouri City and Dane Myers of Katy, outfielders Khevin Brewer of Richmond and Stone Garrett of Sugar Land, and the Houston trio of OF/Inf Ryan Chandler, Rhp Michael Rodgers, and Rhp/OF Ricardo Salinas.

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

Owls In "The Show" Last Season
The Owls' list of active major league players for 2013 included Lance Berkman (Rangers), Tony Cingrani (Reds), Brock Holt (Red Sox), Philip Humber (Astros), Paul Janish (Braves), Matt Langwell (Indians and Diamondbacks), Lucas Luetge (Mariners), Jeff Niemann (Rays), Anthony Rendon (Nationals) and Joe Savery (Phillies). Updates from the `Hot Stove League' saw Berkman announce his retirement from the majors, while Philip Humber signed with the Oakland A's and Paul Janish with the Colorado Rockies.

GAMEDAY CENTRAL
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