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Baseball Team Hosts FAU In Three-Game C-USA Series

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March 20, 2014

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Mar. 21 (Fri.) 6:30 pm; FAU at Rice
Watch the game on the web
GameTracker (activates at game time)

Mar. 22 (Sat.) 1 pm; FAU at Rice ;
Game televised by Fox Sports Net (no OwlVision this game)
GameTracker (activates at game time)

Mar. 23 (Sun.) 1 pm; FAU at Rice;
Watch the game on the web
GameTracker (activates at game time)

All times listed are Central Time. Internet features activate at game time.

Rice Baseball Hosts FAU In C-USA Home Series; Owls vs. Owls at Reckling Park!
The Rice baseball team, 16-6 overall and leading Conference USA with a 5-1 record, returns home for another round of league games this weekend (March 21-23). The Owls host new C-USA foe Florida Atlantic University at Reckling Park in a matchup of  "Owls vs. Owls." Friday start time is set for 6:30 pm. Both Saturday and Sunday's games are scheduled for 1 pm. Note the Saturday 1 pm start is a change from some earlier listings.  

It's T.V. Time Again Saturday
Saturday's game has been selected for a live TV broadcast. Fox Sports Net, a leader in televising collegiate competitions across the country, is bringing the Rice-FAU clash to the
nation. Broadcasters Ron Thulin (play-by-play) and former major leaguer Pat Combs (commentary) have the TV call in game two of the series.

National Rankings Update • Rice Ranked As High As No. 11
Rice is nationally-ranked in a host of different college baseball polls. After five-straight wins last week, including four over ranked opponents, the Owls climbed to No. 11 team in the nation in by Baseball America. PerfectGame and USA Today/ESPN have Rice at No. 15. Here's a closer look at some of the latest national rankings, and changes from the previous week:

Poll This Week Last Week
Baseball America 11 15
PerfectGame.com 15 15
USA Today 15 T19
NCBWA 16 18
College Sports Madness 16 21
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 21 29

 

 


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 sixth season as the regular voice of the Owls. For some selected home games, "R" Association Director Jimmy Comerota will be joining in on the Rice broadcast and providing commentary from a former player's perspective.

Watch Home Games On OwlVision All Access
Most home games at Reckling Park and all C-USA games, home or away, are slated for a live on-line video broadcast by OwlVision All Access. OwlVision is a subscription-based service which matches the 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 at the above links.

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

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 1,920 - 1,515 - 9.

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 1,013-406 with the Owls (606-148 at home, 314-199 on the road games and 93-59 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .714, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .714 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 116 games in a single year... Graham's record vs. this weekend's opponent is as follows: 1-0 vs. Florida Atlantic; 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.

1,587 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,013 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,587 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,587-519 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham announced Rice's starting pitchers of the FAU series as junior right-hander Zech Lemond (2-0, 1.40), followed by sophomore left-hander Blake Fox (4-0, 1.38) in Saturday's game, and Chase McDowell (3-1, 1.05) in the Sunday finale.
• Though he may be most-noted as the Rice "stopper" with 18 saves in his collegiate career, Lemond has settled-in to his new role as a starting pitcher. In fact his new role is not just as a starting pitcher, but as the `Friday Night' pitcher (traditionally reserved for the staff ace). The Houston native has started two games this year and a total of five in his Rice career. Last week against nationally-ranked FIU he worked a career-long 8.0 innings in a no-decision (as Rice won in 13 innings). In his first start of the season against Old Dominion (March 7) he recorded a career-best 10 strikeouts in 6.2 frames to improve to 2-0. As a starter this season Lemond has maintained a 1.23 ERA and held opposing hitters to a composite .189 batting average. The standout from Waltrip High School has started 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 then 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 four of his five Saturday starts while maintaining a steady 1.38 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. His wins have been over nationally ranked Stanford on the road, No. 10 ranked TCU at Minute Maid Park, No. 19 FIU on the road and Purdue. He pitched into the ninth inning for the first time in his career last weekend at FIU, holding the Panthers' explosive lineup to just two runs. He fanned a career-best seven in 6.0 shutout frames vs. TCU. This year the Houston native has held all opponents to a .246 batting average, but his sophomore campaign is only part of the story. Fox is undefeated in Rice collegiate career, posting a 10-0 record in a total of 25 appearances dating back to 2013.
• A year ago Chase McDowell finished fourth on the Rice staff in starts (6), fifth in innings (53.0) and sixth in appearances (17), but he's been on pace for a sensational season in 2014. The senior from College Station, Texas, has contributed a 3-1 record with a 1.05 ERA in 25.2 innings. He has already worked his way into three starts where his ERA is an austere 0.51. Last week McDowell amassed 10.0 innings over two appearances (one start and one relief) and the only run he surrendered was unearned. Consider that with C-USA preseason honoree Jordan Stephens now sidelined for the remainder of the season, McDowell is now the staff's most experienced starting pitcher with 15 career starts. He is one of three Rice players with the versatile role of serving as both a hitter and a pitcher, and so far he is the only Rice Owl to hit and pitch in the same game (three times this season).
• FAU is 14-7 overall and 3-3 in C-USA. The team announced its starting rotation for the weekend as junior left-hander Austin Gomber (2-2, 4.35), senior right-hander Jeremy Strawn (2-3, 2.12) and junior right-hander Drew Jackson (2-0, 2.51).

Previous Outing • Rice Thumps Texas State 14-1 Tuesday Night
SAN MARCOS, Texas -- The Rice baseball team efficiently scored 14 runs on 12 hits, but sophomore pitcher Caleb Smith stole the show with a solid start as the Owls defeated longtime rival Texas State 14-1 Tuesday night (March 18) in San Marcos. The Rice offense quickly amassed seven runs over the first four innings on five hits, four walks and a pair of hit batsmen. That was more than enough room for Smith in just his second Division I start. The sophomore transfer worked a career-long 6.0 innings, allowing just one run on three hits and walk while striking out a career-high 12. The dozen strikeouts are the most by a Rice pitcher since Austin Kubitza's 13 in a road game at the University of Hawaii last season. The win was Smith's first as an Owl. Rice won its sixth game in a row to improve to 16-6 overall. Texas State dropped to 13-7. Two extra-base hits by Rice put the Owls on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning. Michael Aquino led off with a double down the right field line. He scored on a one out double to right-center by Kirby Taylor. The Bobcats answered with a run in the bottom of the frame. Tanner Hill connected on a pitch for a solo home run to left field to make it 1-1. Rice needed only a combined three hits for a total of six runs over the third and fourth innings. Texas State walked two and hit another two as the Blue & Gray batted around for four in the fourth. A Keenan Cook single, two more Bobcat walks, a wild pitch and sacrifice fly by Aquino stretched the margin to 7-1. Rice later added two more runs in the eighth and five more in the ninth for a 14-1 final. In the final offensive totals four different Rice players collected at least two hits and every player scored a run. Aquino went 3-for-4 with two RBI. John Clay Reeves drove in three runs with a pair of hits.

Single Game Tickets For Texas and Texas A&M Are Now on Sale
Individual game tickets for the Rice baseball team's upcoming home games against longtime rivals Texas (April 1) and Texas A&M (April 22) are now on sale through the Athletics Tickets Office, including the on-line ticket page at RiceOwls.com. College baseball fans should not delay in purchasing tickets to two of the premier home match-ups on Rice's 2014 schedule. Texas A&M is visiting Reckling Park for the first time since the 2011 season. It's the Longhorns first trip to Rice since 2010. Ticket prices start at $16 for adults and $10 for youths. Rice has a total of 16 games remaining on the regular season home schedule. In addition to Florida Atlantic University this weekend, the Blue & Gray also host C-USA foes East Carolina and UAB and longtime rival Lamar in the upcoming weeks. Fans also still have a chance to purchase tickets on the baseball Flex Plan, where multiple tickets are available to different home games at discount prices. Information on the Rice baseball Flex Plan is available at RiceOwls.com. For more information please visit the Rice Ticket Office in Tudor Fieldhouse or call at 713-522-OWLS (6957).

Reeves Named Conference USA Hitter of the Week
IRVING, Tex. - After helping Rice go undefeated in five games last week, Rice's John Clay Reeves has been named the Conference USA Hitter of the Week for Mar. 11-17, the league office announced Monday (Mar. 17) from its headquarters in Irving, Texas. Reeves went an eye-opening 17-for-25 at the plate (.680 average) to help lead Rice to five-straight wins, including four over ranked opponents with a weekend series road sweep of No. 19 Florida International and a shutout of No. 27 TCU (March 11). The junior catcher who joined the Owls from Navarro College drove in a total of six runs and scored five times. He also had three doubles for an .800 slugging percentage and drew one walk for a .692 on-base average. During one Friday-to-Sunday stretch in the FIU series Reeves reached base a total of 10 consecutive times. His offense was only part of the story, however, as he twice tagged-out would-be FIU runners at home plate - including one play that was in the bottom of the 12th inning that prevented an FIU victory. Louisiana Tech junior Phil Maton was named the C-USA Pitcher of the Week.

Quick On The 2014 Rice Owls
Rice began spring practices on January 25. The 2014 team returned 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. The latest update is that junior starting pitcher Jordan Stephens has been sidelined for the remainder of the season. Third baseman Shane Hoelscher was sidelined for some games in mid-March, but he returned to duty on March 11 and since then has had his familiar star defensive plays at the hot corner. Junior first baseman Skyler Ewing was one of the stars of the fall training program and is currently second on the team with a .314 batting average. 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 center. At catcher keep an eye on newcomer John Clay Reeves (Navarro College) and 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 six 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 since entered Baseball America's national rankings. Yet another loss was by a single run in extra innings. Rice has five victories over ranked teams, including three on the road (two at Stanford, one at Sam Houston State), and two vs. TCU (at home and at Minute Maid Park). Also note the final margin in Rice's losses has been two runs or less four times.

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.

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.

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.

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. FAU advanced to the Chapel Hill Regional final before losing to No. 1 national seed North Carolina in extra innings.

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.

Solid In C-USA Regular Season • Exactly 200 C-USA Games
Since its first Conference USA baseball campaign in the spring of 2006, Rice's regular-season record in C-USA league games is 153-47 (.765).

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

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice is 3-3 in its all-white uniforms, 2-1 in all-gray, 3-1 in blue tops with white pants, 1-1 in blue tops with gray pants, a perfect 6-0 in its new home alternate, and now 1-0 in the new road alternate the program debuted at Texas State on March 18. 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. (The alternates) are simply an addition and a chance to showcase the owl mascot."

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
Florida 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

GAMEDAY CENTRAL
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