Baseball Team Plays Tuesday Night at U.H.; Owls Host Lamar Wednesday

March 25, 2014

Rice Baseball Plays at Houston Tuesday Night; Owls Return Home To Host Lamar Wednesday
The Rice baseball team, 19-6 overall and leading Conference USA with an 8-1 league record, has two midweek games in town before getting out on the road for a C-USA weekend series. The Owls first play at crosstown rival Houston (19-4 overall) on Tuesday night. Start time at Cougar Field is set for 6:30 pm. Rice then returns home for single game against longtime foe Lamar on Wednesday. First pitch at Reckling Park is set for 6:30 pm. Over the weekend (March 28-30) the Blue & Gray meet new C-USA foe Middle Tennessee State on the road in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

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 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.

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 1,923 - 1,515 - 9.

National Rankings Update • Rice Ranked As High As No. 10
Rice is nationally-ranked in a host of different college baseball polls. After four wins last week, and streak of nine-straight wins overall, the Owls climbed to No. 10 in the nation in by both Baseball America and PerfectGame. USA Today/ESPN has Rice at No. 11. 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 10 11 10 15
USA Today 11 15
NCBWA 13 16
College Sports Madness 13 16
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 14 21



Live Stats On GameTracker
Links to live play-by-play text and statistics from every game are posted on 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.

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 1,016-406 with the Owls (609-148 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 week's opponents is as follows: 79-28 vs. Houston; 31-16 vs. Lamar; and 0-0 vs. Middle Tennessee State; 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.

1,590 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,016 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,590 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,590-519 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Caleb Smith To Start Tuesday; Remaining Starters TBA
Wayne Graham announced sophomore right-hander Caleb Smith (1-0, 4.09) would start Tuesday at Houston. Coach Graham will officially announce the rest of the week's remaining rotation at a later time. Smith is a transfer from Cisco College in his first season with the program. The Austin, Texas, native made his Rice debut out of the bullpen in the opening weekend of the season at Stanford. He went on to pitch 2.0 shutout innings of hitless relief at home against Purdue (Feb. 23) before his first Rice start against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Mar. 12). He started the March 18 midweek game at Texas State and was sensational. In a game where the Owl offense garnered all the attention in a comfortable 14-1 victory, Smith allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out an eye-opening 12 batters in 6.0 innings of work. For the full season he's fanned 17 batters in 11.0 innings and held all hitters to a composite .209 batting average.

Previous Outing • Rice Defeats FAU Sunday In 12 Innings, 3-2
HOUSTON -- Skyler Ewing's two-out, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 12th inning lifted the Rice baseball team to a 3-2 victory over visiting Florida Atlantic in the finale of the three-game Conference USA league series Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park. With the sweep of the weekend series Rice won its ninth-straight game to improve to 19-6 on the year and a league-leading 8-1 in C-USA action. FAU moved to 14-10 overall and 3-6 in conference. FAU was on scoreboard first with a run in the top of the fourth. Stephen Kerr led off with a double to left-center and a single by Levi Meyer put runners at the corners. Kerr scored on a fielder's choice for a 1-0 lead, but it was the only run in the inning. Rice came right back to gain the advantage in its turn to bat. Keenan Cook led off with a double near the left field line and he hustled to third on a wild pitch. Ewing drove him home with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. John Clay Reeves followed with a home run to left. His second longball of the season put Rice on top 2-1. FAU was down to its final six outs when CJ Chatham led off the top of the eighth with a solo home run to right field. His second homer knotted-up the score to send the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the 12th, Michael Aquino drew a leadoff walk and Ford Stainback followed with a slow rolling bunt on the first base line that drew a crowd of defenders. The ball stayed fair for base hit and to put runners on first and second with none away. A sacrifice bunt by Charlie Warren, a Leon Byrd walk, and strikeout brought Ewing to the plate with the bases loaded and two away. The Arlington, Texas, native slapped the first pitch into left-center field to score Aquino for the 3-2 final. Were Rice managed to get men on base in the ninth, tenth and eleventh innings, FAU did not have success in the late stages of the game against Rice reliever Matt Ditman. Ditman entered the game after Chatham's eighth-inning home run and proceeded to retire each of the 12 FAU batters he faced. In 5.0 innings of work Ditman struck out eight. There was only one time where FAU got the ball outside the infield, and that was a shallow but tricky fly caught by Byrd on the grass back from his spot at shortstop. Ditman improved to 2-2 on the season with a win in relief. "That is a very big win to get today because that is a very good team," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "Skyler's aggressive, and he went up there (in the 12th) with the intent to win the game. He came up big, which we're getting accustomed to seeing from him. Matt was awesome today, he's just been incredible in that role," coach Graham added. "He is as important as any player on the team right now. His teammates have a lot of confidence in him, and with good reason."

Lemond Named Conference USA Pitcher of the Week
IRVING, Tex. - After a solid performance on the mound last week, Rice's Zech Lemond has been named a Conference USA Co-Pitcher of the Week for Mar. 18-24, the league office announced Monday (Mar. 24) from its headquarters in Irving, Texas. Lemond and Southern Miss junior RHP Christian Talley share the honor after both struck out a career-best 12 batters in series-opening wins last Friday night. The C-USA Hitter of the Week award went to Old Dominion senior 1B Josiah Burney, who had three homers and 10 RBI on the road in the Monarchs first conference series win. Lemond won his Friday night start against Florida Atlantic (March 21) with another steady outing in his only mound appearance of the week. The Houston native, who began the season as the stopper before being moved into the rotation, posted a career-high 12 strikeouts in a career-best 8.1 innings vs. FAU. He scattered six singles in and three walks without allowing any runs. Lemond held all opposing hitters to a composite .207 batting average to improve his overall record to 3-0 and lower his ERA to 1.86. The award is the second-straight C-USA honor for a Rice Owl in as many weeks. On March 17 Rice catcher John Clay Reeves was named the C-USA Hitter of the Week.
First baseman Skyler Ewing was named both the C-USA Hitter of the Week, and a National Hitter of the Week, on Feb. 17.

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.

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 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 For more information please visit the Rice Ticket Office in Tudor Fieldhouse or call at 713-522-OWLS (6957).

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 .317 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. In starting 24 of the team's 25 games, the transfer from Navarro College is currently hitting a team-best .426 with 19 RBI and a .564 slugging percentage.

Rice's Tough Schedule Deserves A Closer Look
Rice has six losses, but a closer look at the opponents is in order. Three 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 went on to enter Baseball America's national rankings. Yet another loss was by a single run in extra innings. Also note the final margin in Rice's four of the six losses has been two runs or less.

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.

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

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.

2014 PRESEASON BASEBALL AWARDS (selected by C-USA's head coaches)
1. Rice (12)
2. Florida Atlantic
3. East Carolina
4. Southern Miss
5. Tulane (1)
6. FIU
8. Charlotte
9. Middle Tennessee
10. Old Dominion
11. UAB
12. Marshall
13. Louisiana Tech
(first place votes in parentheses)

Drew Reynolds, East Carolina (Senior, DH/RHP)
Aramis Garcia, FIU (Junior, Catcher)

Zech Lemond, Rice (Junior, Right-hander)

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

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 156-47 (.768).

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice is 4-3 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 8-0 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



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