Owls Begin Five Game Road Swing Tuesday

March 28, 2017

E-mail baseball SID John Sullivan
E-mail baseball promotions & game-music director Matt Anderson

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Mar. 28 (Tues.) 6:30 pm; Rice at Sam Houston State
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Rice Opens Road Swing Tuesday At Sam Houston; Owls To Play Next Five Games Away From Home
The Rice baseball team (7-19 overall) is back on the road for each of its next five games beginning on March 28 thru April 4. The Owls play at longtime foe Sam Houston State this Tuesday night. First pitch at Don Sanders Stadium in Huntsville, Texas, is set for 6:30 pm. Rice then heads to Boca Raton, Fla., March 31-April 2 for a three-game weekend series at Conference USA co-leader Florida Atlantic. Every Rice-FAU sports event is an Owls-v-Owls matchup.

Play-By-Play Audio On The Web
Every Rice baseball game is scheduled for a live audio broadcast on the Internet at RiceOwls.com. Tune-in to the broadcast's pregame show 15 minutes before first pitch. J.P. Heath is in his ninth season as the voice of the Owls.

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 links on the Rice Athletics front page, the weekly series preview, and/or the baseball schedule page.

Follow The Tweeting Rice Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceBaseball while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceAthletics. Twitter is perhaps the fastest way to get weather-related changes to the schedule/updated start times.

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 26th season at Rice. The 2017 campaign marks his 38th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,121-485 with the Owls (667-181 at home, 351-232 on the road and 101-71 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .698, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .698 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 113 games in a single year... Including the recent March 14 game from Reckling Park, Graham is 36-20 vs. Sam Houston State (22-11 home, 14-9)... Graham is 9-1 vs. FAU (5-1 home, 3-0 road, 1-0 neutral)... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2016, making 22-straight seasons for Rice to earn an NCAA appearance. The Blue & Gray has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13-14-15-16. 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, 2014 and 2015, 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 head coaches to have played in the major leagues (N.Y. Mets in 1963, Philadelphia in 1964), Graham is aided by assistant coaches Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; sixth year), John Pope (Rice, 1990, Jones College; 1st year),  and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; fifth year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Shepherd coaches at first.

1,696 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,121 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,696 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,696-598 in a 35-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Wayne Graham Radio Show Airs Monday Nights Starting March 27
The new season of The Wayne Graham Radio Show, the live weekly Rice baseball show featuring coach Wayne Graham, returned to its usual Monday night slot at 7 pm on March 27. The show originates from The Genghis Grill Restaurant between Wesleyan and Edloe on the Southwest Freeway and runs through the remainder of the season. It airs in the Houston area on SB Nation 1560 AM, and around the world on RiceOwls.com. Coach Graham will review games from the previous weekend and preview upcoming series. In addition to discussions on college baseball's national rankings and chase for the C-USA championship, each week's show will include current members of the team, former Owl players and special guests. Fans will have a chance to interact via Twitter and can now catch the show on their phone by downloading the "Tune In" app. The show is a unique opportunity for baseball fans to get direct insight from one of the college game's most successful icons who was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame and who has more than 1,100 Division I wins.

Probable Starting Pitcher
Coach Graham announced Rice's probable starting pitcher for the Sam Houston State game as right-handed sophomore Kendal Jefferies (1-0, 4.76). Jefferies has pitched a total of 11.1 innings over five relief appearances. A starting assignment would be the first of his Rice career. Earlier the Spring, Texas, native scattered two hits and struck out a career-high six in a career-long 4.1 innings to defeat Stanford. In his last 8.1 innings he's held hitters to a composite .233 batting average. Coach Graham will announce the starting pitchers for the remaining games this week at a later time.

National Postseason Streak At 22-Straight, Looking For 23 In 2017
Rice baseball's 22-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the nation's fourth-longest streak in NCAA history. Each of the top four streaks of making the NCAA Tournament are all of the active variety. In 2016 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 44th-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (39) and Cal State Fullerton (25).

Here's Who's Hot
Newcomer Darryn Sheppard had four sensational games at the plate last week. The first year grad student from nearby Sugar Land was 8-of-15 (.533) with a three doubles and a grand slam home run for a .933 slugging percentage. When going back even further Sheppard is 12-of-29 (.414) the last two weeks to raise his season batting average above .300... Sophomore catcher Dominic DiCaprio extended his hitting streak to four games. In three games against FIU the Florida native drove in six runs by going 5-of-12 (.417) with two home runs for .917 slugging percentage... Junior centerfielder Ryan Chandler extended his hitting streak to five games and is now 7-for-19 (.368) with two doubles and a triple for a .579 slugging percentage. Chandler also scored six times, drew two walks and stole home during his current stretch.

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice's 2017 W-L records while wearing the various uniforms is as follows:
4-3 in all-white
2-3 in gray `birds' tops
1-5 in all pinstripes
0-2 in blue Cuba Tour jersey (with pinstripe pants)
0-3 in gray `Rice' tops
0-3 in blue `Rice' tops (with pinstripe pants)

Last Time Out: FIU Rallies Past Rice Sunday, 7-5
HOUSTON -- Visiting Florida International overcame an early 5-0 deficit for a 7-5 win over the Rice baseball team in the finale of the three-game Conference USA weekend series Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park... Rice proved it was able to score early in both of the first two games of the series, putting up a combined total of five first inning runs in both halves of Saturday's double-header. The Owls' first inning Sunday was both the best of the series and the season... A Ford Proctor single and a pair of walks quickly loaded the bases with one away. Proctor scored on Tristan Gray's sacrifice fly, but with just two outs Rice was not quite finished. Charlie Warren drew a walk to re-load the stations and Darryn Sheppard followed with a grand-slam home run to left-center field. Sheppard's third round-tripper of the season gave Rice a 5-0 advantage and the most runs the team has scored in the first inning this year... FIU quickly battled back. In the top of the second inning the Panthers scored three runs on J.C. Escarra's fourth home run of the season. FIU then took the lead, 6-5, on four-consecutive hits in the fourth including back-to-back doubles. The Panthers added one final insurance run in the fifth to go up 7-5, and held Rice in check for the remainder of the contest despite the Owls putting a runner on base in every inning... Rice attempted one final rally in the bottom of the ninth, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate with two away. FIU worked out of the jam with a strikeout to win the game 7-5 and the series two games to one. The Owls are now 7-19 on the season and 1-5 in C-USA. The Panthers are now 14-10 overall and 3-3 in conference.

This & That
Junior Ryan Chandler has started every game in centerfield since the start of his freshman year in 2015, a streak of 147-straight games... Chandler stole home at nationally-ranked Texas A&M (March 21), a feat Dane Myers did last season in the series finale at FIU... After just two steals in the team's first 14 games the Owls have now swiped 12 bases in the last 12 games... True freshman Matt Canterino posted double-digit strikeouts in three-straight outings (Pepperdine, Stanford and Old Dominion). The last Owl to do that was Jeff Niemann in the national championship season of 2003 (Wichita State, Houston and Southwest Missouri State)... Senior Charlie Warren now needs just 12 more base hits to reach 200 for his collegiate career. This season Warren has tallied three hits in a game four different times, the most on the squad this year... In the March 9 game vs. Stanford, Rice took seven different at bats with the bases-loaded, the most for the team in a single game since 2006... Rice is hitting a combined .308 (32-for-104) in the third inning, but its best inning for scoring runs is the sixth (19 runs)... On Sunday against FIU junior second baseman Tristan Gray recorded a career-high seven defensive assists, the most by any Owl on the team this season. He also had a hand on all three Rice double plays.

Owls Ink Nine In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program has signed nine high school standouts in the early period who will join the team for the 2018 season. The list of newest Owls includes Dane Acker, Luis Aviles, Justin Collins, Braden Comeaux, Dominic Cox, Trei Cruz, Joshua Larzabal, Parker Osburn and Kelby Weyler. The group consists of two multi-position players who are versatile enough to contribute as both a pitcher and position player/hitter. There are three infielders and three catchers. All are from the high school ranks. Seven are from Texas and five are from the greater Houston area.

Otto Garners A Host of Preseason All-America Honors
With a steady stream of Preseason All-America honors, Owl junior right-hander Glenn Otto will not have much chance to sneak up on opponents. The list of accolades for he and junior right-hander Ricardo Salinas are as follows:
Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball
First Team
RHP       Glenn Otto

National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association
Second Team
RHP       Glenn Otto
Third Team
RHP       Ricardo Salinas

D1Baseball.com
Third Team
RHP       Glenn Otto, Rice

National Stopper of the Year Watch List
RHP       Glenn Otto, Rice

Golden Spikes Award Watch List
RHP       Glenn Otto, Rice

New Kid On The Block
Houston area native Darryn Sheppard joined the Rice baseball program in January 2017 as a graduate student of Global Affairs. He played the 2014-2016 seasons at Baylor and graduated with a degree in Business Administration. Sheppard owns one year of collegiate eligibility after playing in more than 140 games with 132 Division I starts. He slugged 14 career home runs with 76 runs scored, 63 RBI and 12 steals in three seasons as an outfielder/first baseman in the Big 12 Conference. His solid 2016 season featured a .294 batting average, a .480 slugging percentage and a team-leading eight home runs in 52 starts. The Sugar Land, Texas, native clubbed two homers in a Big 12 road game at Oklahoma last season and led the Bears with 11 games with two or more RBI. He finished third on the squad with 15 multi-hit games in 2016, and was the only Bear to record five hits in a single game.

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' 2016 fall training was no exception. Newcomer Brad Gneiting turned in sound and solid outings to earn himself playing time this spring. Gneiting was a tough out in Blue-Gray games, batting .302 from the left side and finishing tied for second on the squad in steals... Versatile sophomore Kendal Jefferies meanwhile showed big improvement as a right-handed pitcher, as did sophomore left-hander Evan Kravetz.

Owls Defeat Cuban Professional Team Last Fall
ARTEMISA, Cuba -- On Nov. 25, 2016, the Rice pitching duo of Dane Myers and Addison Moss combined to hold Cuban League foe Artemisa to no runs on just four hits when the Owls claimed a 4-0 overseas victory in its first and only game on its international tour last fall... Myers was sound and solid scattering two singles and two walks with five strikeouts over 6.0 innings against the older and professional Cuban players. The junior from Katy, Texas, retired seven of the first eight batters he faced. When the first Artemisa batter reached on a free pass, the Cazadores' dangerous slugging first-baseman Juan Rodriguez, Myers picked him off first with crafty move that seemed to spark Rice on offensive side in the top of the very next inning... Dayne Wunderlich was hit by a pitch and tried to hustle to third on Myers' one-out single into centerfield. Wunderlich was retired on a strong, veteran throw by Yuan Moreno, but Myers alertly dashed up to second on the play to keep an runner in scoring position. Sophomore Ford Proctor followed with an RBI single into left and los Buhos (the Owls) were on the board 1-0... Rice was back on the offensive when senior Charlie Warren led off the fifth with a hit to left center and a steal of second base. He went to third on a Wunderlich single and scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead... After the traditional Cuban sixth-inning stretch, the Owls added a little more insurance in the seventh. Proctor stroked a two-out double to left and with first base open Artemisa elected to intentionally walk Dominic DiCaprio. Ryan Chandler singled-home Proctor, and a wild throw from the outfield allowed DiCaprio to come home and stretch the margin to 4-0... That was now proving to be more than enough room. True freshman Addison Moss started the game at first base and switched positions in the field with Myers after the sixth. The right-hander from Conroe, Texas, kept the shutout intact and earned a save with 3.0 innings of two-hit relief where he allowed two singles and without any walks and a strikeout... "The experience of coming here has already been so beneficial, the game today was just icing on the cake," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham, who was making his return to Cuba since his minor league playing season at AAA Buffalo in 1960. "We've just been treated so well I know the players will remember this trip and this particular game very fondly. After the big (pregame) ceremony they had and all, we were maybe a little nervous at the very start," Graham explained. "When we just relaxed and started playing, we played really well. We finished with 11 hits and Dane was sensational like we know he can be."... Proctor and Wunderlich paced the Owls with three-hits each, and Myers had two hits in addition to his win on the mound... The Owls were originally scheduled to play five exhibition games on its educational and cultural tour of the previously `closed' island nation last November, but the death of longtime lead Fidel Castro (when the team was in Havana) forced a cancellation of the four remaining games. The Owl players, however, continued to make the rest of its itinerary destinations at various landmarks and museums.

1996 - 2015; Rice's 20-Straight Conference Titles
Rice saw it's streak of winning 20-straight conference titles come to an end in 2016. The Owls had won or shared a total of 20-straight conference championships (including either regular season and/or conference tournament titles) dating back to 1996. The streak covered membership in three different leagues beginning with the Southwest Conference (1996), to nine seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1997-2005) and ten C-USA titles from 2006-2015. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 21 years:


 

 

YearConferenceRegular SeasonConf. Tourney
2016C-USA4th2nd
2015C-USA1sttied 7th
2014C-USA1st1st
2013C-USAtied 1st1st
2012C-USAtied 1sttied 5th
2011C-USA1st1st
2010C-USA1st2nd
2009C-USA2nd1st
2008C-USA1sttied 7th
2007C-USA1st1st
2006C-USA1st1st
2005WAC1stno tourney
2004WAC1stno tourney
2003WAC1stno tourney
2002WAC1stno tourney
2001WAC1stno tourney
2000WACtied 1stno tourney
1999WAC1st1st
1998WAC1st South Div.1st
1997WAC1st South Div.1st
1996SWCtied 6th1st


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 18 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999-2016 (note: this listing will not be updated to include games played in 2017):

SchoolWLTPct
Florida St.8763211.732
Rice8373260.720
South Carolina8263550.699
North Carolina7973461.697
LSU8073546.694
Miami (Fla.)7823443.694
Cal State Fullerton7753470.691
Costal Carolina7693490.688
Oral Roberts7333440.681
Arizona St.7083352.678
Texas7723731.674
Georgia Tech7463771.664
Virginia7223773.657
Clemson7534121.646
TCU7163930.646
Nebraska7033872.645
Florida7374072.644
East Carolina6973924.640
Florida Atlantic6903892.639
Louisville7044002.638
Texas A&M7184083.637
Oregon St.6593751.637
Tulane6993982.637
Oklahoma St.6943970.636
Stanford6903952.636
Col. of Charleston6763872.636
Kent State6753870.636
DBU (11 years)4092360.634
Vanderbilt7014140.629
Ohio St.6663992.625
UL-Lafayette6894161.623
Southern Miss6774101.623

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