The Rice baseball team, 24-11 overall and winners of 15 of the last 17 games to earn a No. 13 national ranking from Baseball America, returns to Conference USA league play on April 22-24. Rice plays a three-game weekend series at Southern Miss in a head-to-head matchup of the co-leaders in the current C-USA standings. Start times against the Golden Eagles are set for 7 pm Friday, 4 pm Saturday and 1 pm Sunday. (Note the 4 pm Saturday start time is a change from some earlier listings.)
It's T.V. Prime Time Friday Night
The people who select sporting events for national television broadcasts know what the big games are. With the long-established success for both the Rice and Southern Miss baseball programs, Friday's series-opener between the foes was an easy choice for a live TV well before the team's took the field this season. FoxSports2, a leader in televising collegiate competitions across the country, is bringing the Rice-USM clash to the nation. Broadcast veterans Dave Barnett and former Rice Owl Pat Combs have the TV call Friday night from Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Watch C-USA Games Online Via OwlVision All-Access
Most 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 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). Information about the service and subscription prices are available at RiceOwls.com. Games that have been selected for TV broadcasts can alter the OwlVision availability.
Play-By-Play Audio On The Web
Every Rice baseball game this season is scheduled for a live audio broadcast around the world on the Internet at RiceOwls.com. Tune-in to the pregame show 15 minutes before each game's first pitch. J.P. Heath is in his eighth season as the regular voice of the Owls.
Follow The Tweeting Rice Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceOwlsBSB while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceOwlsdotcom. Twitter is perhaps the fastest way to get weather-related changes to the schedule/updated start times.
Live Stats On GameTracker
Links to live play-by-play text and statistics from every home game are posted on RiceOwls.com. Look for the GameTracker links on the Rice Athletics front page, the weekly series preview, and the baseball schedule page.
National Rankings Update Owls Ranked As High As No. 13
Here's a closer look at some of the national rankings, as well as that polls' respective poll from last week:
Organization Current Previous
Baseball America 13 19
D1Baseball.com 15 21
College Baseball Central 19 nr
USA Today/ESPN 20 nr
College Sports Madness 22 nr
Collegiate Baseball 24 nr
PerfectGame.com 23 nr
NCBWA 27 nr
NCAA RPI at No. 18
If you have disdain for the politics of the various baseball polls and prefer the cold, hard math of the NCAA's official Rating Power Index (RPI), then consider that Rice has the No. 18 RPI in the nation heading into this weekend. Rice is in fact the highest of three C-USA schools ranked in the current RPI top 25.
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 25th season at Rice. The 2016 campaign marks his 37th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,100-453 with the Owls (658-168 at home, 344-216 on the road and 98-69 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .708, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .708 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 115 games in a single year... Graham is 23-12 vs. Southern Miss... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2015, making 21-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. 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 Patrick Hallmark (Rice, 1995, Brown College; 11th year), Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; fifth year) and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; fourth year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Shepherd coaches at first.
1,675 Wins A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,100 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,675 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,675-566 in a 35-year coaching career that began in 1981.
Wayne Graham Radio Show Airs Monday Nights
The Wayne Graham Radio Show, the live weekly Rice baseball show featuring coach Wayne Graham, airs on Monday nights at 7 pm through the remainder of the season. The show originates from The Genghis Grill Restaurant between Wesleyan and Edloe on the Southwest Freeway. It airs in the Houston area on Yahoo! Sports Radio 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 game 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 1,000 Division I wins.
Possible Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham will announce Rice's starting pitchers for the Southern Miss series at a later time. Here's an updated look at last week's starting pitchers for the home series vs. Western Kentucky (April 15-16).
Veteran Jon Duplantier has been sound and solid in his nine starts this season, working at least 6.0 innings in each outing for a team-leading total of 62.2 frames. The Katy, Texas, native averages an eye-opening 10.98 strikeouts per 9.0 innings with a 3.2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He's faced three nationally-ranked teams in Arizona, Arkansas and East Carolina, was sensational vs. UCF (March 4), and then even better against
C-USA foe Old Dominion (March 25). Against UCF Duplantier allowed just one hit in 8.0 innings while striking out 14. He was named both the C-USA Pitcher of the Week and National Pitcher of the Week according to CollegeSportsMadness.com. He picked up the league pitching honor a second time against ODU with his first complete game, a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts and no earned runs. No matter if the 6-foot-4 right-hander is pitching at home, away, or at a neutral site, there are always a host of MLB scouts tracking his every pitch.
Senior Blake Fox has pitched well in his nine starts, and his outing in the opener of the April 16 double-header vs. Western Kentucky may have been among the best of his career. Against the Hilltoppers the left-hander allowed just two runs in a season-long 8.0 innings while recording a career-high nine strikeouts. For the full season he has maintained a 2.83 ERA and held opponents to a composite .239 batting average in 6.1 innings per start. He was particularly sharp in a C-USA appearance at Middle Tennessee, allowing no runs on six singles in 7.0 innings with five strikeouts. A closer look reveals that in eight of his nine starts his offensive teammates have supported him with only a .193 batting average and just 2.5 runs per game. For his collegiate career, Fox is 29-7 with a 2.53 ERA in 281.0 collegiate innings. The Houston native is the Rice's active leader in career appearances (59), starts (41) and strikeouts (198).
Ricardo Salinas has grown into his role as a weekend starter, particularly the last six weekends. In his last six starts (all on Sundays vs. East Carolina and five other C-USA opponents) the Houston native is 6-0 with an 1.25 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 43.1 innings. He posted a new career-long outing with a 9.0-inning complete game two-hit shutout vs. UAB (April 10). Earlier he was named the March 14 C-USA Pitcher of the Week with 8.0 shutout frames against No. 16 ranked East Carolina (March 13). Salinas registered a new career-high with nine strikeouts in his March 27 start against Old Dominion. A closer look at his early opponents is also in order. The sophomore right-hander's first start was against national/Pac-12 powerhouse Arizona, followed by a weekend start against nationally-ranked TCU. In his time at Rice, Salinas is 9-3 overall with 14 starts in his collegiate career.
Here's Who's Hot
Sophomore leftfielder Tristan Gray enters the weekend hitting even better than the four games where he was named the C-USA Hitter of the Week (see below). In his last five games, Gray is 7-for-15 (.467) with two doubles for a .600 slugging percentage. He's also scored three runs, driven-in two, and had two sac bunts... True freshman Ford Proctor went 6-for-12 with three runs scored and two RBI in the Western Kentucky series. He also had two doubles for a .667 slugging percentage... Dayne Wunderlich was 5-for-11 (.455) against the Hilltoppers with four runs scored. He also and four RBI on the strength of a grand slam home run... If you're only as good as your last game, junior designated hitter Andrew Dunlap went 2-for-3 with a triple, RBI and run scored in the finale vs. WKU.
Myers & Otto On Initial Watch Lists For National Awards
LUBBOCK, Texas - The sophomore duo of Dane Myers and Glenn Otto have each been named to the respective watch list for some of the top awards presented annually by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, the organization announced Wednesday from its headquarters in Lubbock, Texas... Otto made the initial watch list for the 2016 National Pitcher of the Year Award. Myers has been named to the first watch list for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award, honoring the nation's top performer who contributes both on the mound and at the plate. Both awards will be presented as part of the College Baseball Hall of Fame's Night of Champions celebration in Lubbock this July... Myers has made a key contribution to the team as a relief pitcher in addition to his regular duty of starting each of Rice's 35 games at third base. He owns a .252 batting average, leads the Owls with three triples and shares the team lead with 20 runs scored. The Katy, Texas, native has been a steady fielder at the hot corner, but also been brought in to pitch in order to make the most of his versatile skills. In seven appearances on the mound this season, Myers has notched four saves, maintained a 3.00 ERA, held opposing hitters to a .190 average and struck out 13 in 12.0 innings of work... Otto is the squad's leader with seven saves. The stopper from Spring, Texas, owns an austere 1.37 ERA, held opposing hitters to a composite .204 average and been Rice's winning pitcher four times. He has struck out 48 batters in 39.1 innings, an eye-opening 10.98 strikeouts per 9.0 innings of work.
Gray Named C-USA Hitter of the Week
IRVING - Tristan Gray has been named the Conference USA Hitter of the Week for April 12-17, the league office announced Monday (Apr. 18) from its headquarters in Irving, Texas... Back from an injury that sidelined him for the entire month of March, Owl sophomore outfielder Tristan Gray has made up for lost time. Last week he batted a composite .462 (6-of-13) with two RBI and two runs scored to help the Owls go 4-0, taking a road game at longtime rival Texas State and sweeping C-USA foe Western Kentucky at home. He had a hit in every game to extend his current hitting streak to five-straight, and he clubbed two doubles for a team-best .615 slugging percentage. Gray doubled-home an insurance run in the 3-1 win at Texas State, then singled and scored the go-ahead run in the Friday series-opener against WKU. The Houston native tied a career-high with three hits in the second game of the WKU series, but it was his heads-up play to draw a rundown between first and second base that allowed the Owls' tying run to score from third (before he later drove in a run in that 5-2 victory). Even though he was the team's hottest hitter Gray also unselfishly contributed a sac bunt last week, but his work at the plate was only half the story. In the game at Texas State Gray also battled a swirling 23-mph wind to make eight putouts from his defensive spot in left field - the most by an Owl outfielder in any game this season... Marshall freshman LHP Joshua Shapiro has earned the C-USA Pitcher of the Week award. Shapiro earned his first collegiate victory on Sunday over No. 16 Florida Atlantic with seven scoreless innings, while striking out five.
Previous Game(s): Graham Earns Win No. 11 With Sweep of WKU
HOUSTON - Not only did the Rice baseball team give head coach Wayne Graham his 1,100th victory at the school with a double-header sweep of visiting Western Kentucky on April 16, the Owls moved into first place in the Conference USA standings... Moving the weekend games into a Saturday double-header, then winning both nail-biting affairs (as well as a sweep of the full three-game weekend series against a solid Western Kentucky squad) was just some more of the same diamond magic from the Rice head coach. WKU had scored in the top of the first inning in both games of the double-header, only to have the Blue & Gray take the lead and hold-on in the final stages for wins by the scores of 5-2 and 3-2, respectively... Down 2-0 early in the first game Saturday, Tristan Gray singled-home a run to put runners on first and third in the bottom of the third. Graham's call for the delayed double-steal tied the game 2-2. Rice pulled in front 5-2 with a three-run sixth. It was the kind of offensive support starter Blake Fox had needed after striking out a career-high nine batters in a quality 8.0 innings of work. There was still a final frame to go in the top of the ninth, but sophomore stopper Glenn Otto held strong to earn a foreshadowing save... The Hilltoppers were again quick with a run in the top of the first to start the day's second stanza, but the Owls tied it in the third as Andrew Dunlap scored on a grounder after striking a leadoff triple to right-center field. Rice took a 3-1 lead as an RBI single by Dunlap helped make up a two-run fourth. WKU battled back to pull within one, 3-2, in the fifth. The two runs were the lone scores allowed in another good outing from sophomore Ricardo Salinas. The right-hander from Houston scattered six hits in 6.1 innings while striking out five... With the final 2.2 innings capable of changing on a single pitch, Graham went back to Otto out of the bullpen. Otto had help from his defense to get a double-play on one pitch in the seventh. He notched back-to-back strikeouts to end the eighth with two runners in scoring position, then had a 1-2-3 ninth to secure the 3-2 win. The save was Otto's second of the day and seventh of the season... Rice improved to 24-11 overall and 12-3 in C-USA action. The Owls are tied for first place at the end of other league games played Sunday, a spot where their 1,100-win head coach would want them to be.
Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice's 2016 W-L records while wearing the various uniforms is as follows:
8-3 in all-white
7-5 in pinstripes
4-1 in blue tops with pinstripe pants
4-2 in gray `birds' tops
1-0 in blue tops with white pants
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 203-64 (.760).
Conference Titles Streak Now At 20-Straight
Rice's streak of consecutive conference titles is 20-straight years (just one behind its NCAA streak)... The Owls have 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 covers membership in three different leagues beginning with the Southwest Conference (1996), to nine seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1997-2005) and now ten C-USA titles in as many years. The Owls won the 2015 C-USA regular season title by a comfortable 2.5-game margin. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 20 years:
Year Conf. Regular Season Conf. Tourney
2015 C-USA 1st tied 7th
2014 C-USA 1st 1st
2013 C-USA tied 1st 1st
2012 C-USA 1st tied 5th
2011 C-USA tied 1st 1st
2010 C-USA 1st 2nd
2009 C-USA 2nd 1st
2008 C-USA 1st tied 7th
2007 C-USA 1st 1st
2006 C-USA 1st 1st
2005 WAC 1st no tourney
2004 WAC 1st no tourney
2003 WAC 1st no tourney
2002 WAC 1st no tourney
2001 WAC 1st no tourney
2000 WAC tied 1st no tourney
1999 WAC 1st 1st
1998 WAC 1st South Div. 1st
1997 WAC 1st South Div. 1st
1996 SWC tied 6th 1st
Did You Know? Part I
Jon Duplantier's 14 strikeouts against UCF was the most by an Owl in a single game since Eddie Degerman fanned 14 against Baylor in an NCAA Regional in 2006. Between the Degerman and Duplantier games, there were three Owls to post 13 strikeouts in a game: Ryan Berry vs. Southern Miss in 2008, Matthew Reckling vs. Grambling in 2012, and Austin Kubitza vs. Hawaii in 2013. The last time an Owl had 15 strikeouts in a game was Joe Savery vs. Fresno State on April 30, 2005. The most before that was Degerman with 16 vs. Louisiana Tech on April 9, 2005, to tie for the third-highest single-game total in Rice history.
Did You Know? Part II
In the series finale vs. national power Arizona (Feb. 21), sophomore Dane Myers had two triples in the 4-3 Rice win. The last Owl to do that eventual major leaguer Josh Rodriguez vs. Miami-Ohio in 2004. Rice had two triples in a 2013 win vs. Marshall.
Two More Games Picked Up By TV, Total Now Five Overall
Two more Rice baseball games have been selected for a television broadcast for the upcoming 2016 season under the FOX Sports banner. The Owls' April 22 contest at C-USA foe Southern Miss is now a TV game. The second selection is the May 13 home game vs. Florida Atlantic. Note the start time for both is now 7 pm due to the respective broadcasts on Fox Sports 2... The Owls also had three College Classic games televised by ROOT Sports.
National Postseason Streak At 21-Straight
Rice baseball's 21-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the nation's fourth-longest active streak. In 2015 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 43rd-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (38) and Cal State Fullerton (24). Rice's 21-straight NCAA Tournament bids is also now tied for the fourth-longest postseason streak in Division I baseball history (after Clemson saw its 21-year regional streak snapped in 2008).
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 2017 season. The list of newest Owls includes Matt Canterino, Garrett Gayle, Brad Gneiting, Addison Moss, Mackenzie Mueller, Sean Reynolds, Chace Sarchet, Nick Silber, and Zach Wright. The group consists of three multi-position players who are versatile enough to contribute as both a pitcher and position player/hitter. Four are pitchers (only) and there are two outfielders. Eight are from the high school ranks. Seven are from Texas and three are from the greater Houston area.
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 17 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999-2015 (this listing do not include games played in 2016):
Team Years Wins Loses Ties PCT
Florida St. 17 835 299 1 .736
Rice 17 799 302 0 .726
North Carolina 17 763 325 1 .701
South Carolina 17 780 337 0 .698
Cal St. Fullerton 17 739 324 0 .695
LSU 17 762 333 6 .695
Miami (FL) 17 732 330 3 .689
Texas 17 747 341 1 .686
Coastal Caro. 17 714 331 0 .683
Oral Roberts 17 695 323 0 .683
Arizona St. 17 672 312 2 .683
Georgia Tech 17 708 352 1 .668
Virginia 17 684 355 3 .658
Nebraska 17 666 365 2 .646
Clemson 17 709 392 1 .644
Col.of Charleston 17 645 361 1 .641
East Carolina 17 659 369 3 .641
TCU 17 667 375 0 .640
Stanford 17 659 372 2 .639
Florida Atlantic 17 651 370 1 .637
Oregon St. 17 624 356 1 .637
Florida 17 685 391 2 .636
Tulane 17 658 377 2 .635
Oklahoma St. 17 651 375 0 .635
Texas A&M 17 669 392 3 .630
Louisville 17 654 386 1 .629
Wichita St. 17 660 390 0 .629
Kent St. 17 631 373 0 .628
Notre Dame 17 633 376 5 .627
Southern 17 494 295 0 .626
Vanderbilt 17 658 395 0 .625
Ohio St. 17 622 379 1 .621
UL-Lafayette 17 646 395 1 .620
Southern Miss. 17 636 390 1 .620