April 23, 2014
All times listed are Central Time. Internet features activate at game time.
Rice Baseball Plays At Southern Miss This Weekend; Tough Three-Game Test Before Semester Finals
The Rice baseball team, 29-14 overall and ranked as high as No. 11 in the country, play a crucial three-game Conference USA weekend series on the road at Southern Miss April 25-27. Game times are set for 6 pm Friday, 2 pm on Saturday, and 1 pm on Sunday. The series is a rematch of the same two teams that tied for the C-USA regular season title and then met again in the Championship Final of the league tournament. Rice owns a 16-5 C-USA record. The Golden Eagles enter the weekend with a 25-17 overall record and a 13-5 C-USA ledger. The Owls and USM are currently 1-2 in the conference standings, respectively, and the winner of this series again has the inside track for the regular season crown. After the road trip the Blue & Gray then gets a break in the playing schedule while the University enters its final exams of the spring semester. The Owls return to the diamond with a home game against crosstown foe Houston Baptist on May 7. First pitch against the Huskies is set 6:30 pm at Reckling Park.
Watch Home/C-USA Games On OwlVision All Access
Most Rice home games, and all 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). The service has been growing in popularity the last few years. Information about the service and subscription prices are available at RiceOwls.com.
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.
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 1,933 - 1,523 - 9.
National Rankings Update Rice Ranked No. 11
Rice is nationally-ranked in a host of different college baseball polls. The Owls are No. 11 in the nation according to the latest USA Today/ESPN national coaches poll. Here's a closer look at some of the latest national rankings, and changes from the previous week:
|Poll||This Week||Last Week|
|College Sports Madness||21||22|
|Collegiate Baseball Magazine||19||24|
If you have disdain for the politics of the various baseball polls and prefer the cold, hard math of the NCAA's Rating Power Index, then consider Rice's latest spot in this week's national listing of 302 Division I RPIs:
NCAA RPI Current Previous
Rice 8 11
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 1,026-414 with the Owls (614-152 at home, 319-203 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 weekend's opponent is as follows: 19-10 vs. Southern Miss; 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.
1,600 Wins A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,026 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,600 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,600-526 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.
At his weekly radio show on Monday, April 21, Coach Graham announced Rice's probable starting pitchers of the Southern Miss series as sophomore right-hander Kevin McCanna (4-2, 3.13) in the opener, followed by sophomore left-hander Blake Fox (8-0, 1.30) in Saturday's game, and freshman right-hander Jon Duplantier (1-2, 1.86) in the Sunday finale.
Kevin McCanna has served as both a starter and a reliever this season for a total of 11 appearances. The Woodlands, Texas, native is second on the staff in innings (54.2) and fifth in ERA. His most-recent appearance was April 18 against UAB - just the second Friday night start of his career. Against the Blazers McCanna fired a complete game shutout, scattering eight singles with no walks while striking out five for his fourth win of the year. The week before at Tulane he tied a career-high with seven strikeouts in 7.0 innings. In last 25.2 innings of work McCanna has allowed just three earned runs for a 1.05 ERA. When looking at his statistics only as a starter, McCanna has held opposing hitters to a composite .247 batting average. On March 8 became the first Owl in more than a decade to pitch more than 9.0 innings in a game, with 9.1 in a C-USA start at home against Old Dominion.
Blake Fox has responded to his new role in the weekend rotation with aplomb, winning eight of his ten Saturday starts while maintaining a steady 1.30 ERA and a 1.10 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, East Carolina, Middle Tennessee, FAU, Tulane and Purdue. He pitched into the ninth inning for the first time in his career at FIU (March 22), holding the Panthers' explosive lineup to just two runs. He fanned a career-best eight against East Carolina (April 5) and matched that last week at Tulane. This year the Houston native has held all opponents to a .238 batting average, but his sophomore campaign is only part of the story. Fox is undefeated in Rice collegiate career, posting a 14-0 record in a total of 30 appearances dating back to 2013.
With the Owls in need of a win last Sunday (April 20) and regular starting pitcher Chase McDowell sidelined with an illness, freshman Jon Duplantier came up big with the best game of his collegiate career. In just his third career start the Katy, Texas, native worked a career-long 7.2 innings without allowing an earned run. He also set a new career-high of seven strikeouts to help complete the series sweep of the Blazers. The outing extended his streak of not allowing an earned run to his last 23.1 innings dating back to March 25 (vs Houston). During that same stretch Duplantier has held opponents to a composite .203 batting average.
Fox Named To Golden Spikes Award Watch List
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Blake Fox has been named to the official watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, which is presented to the top amateur baseball player in the country. The watch list will continue to be a "rolling" list until May 27 -- when the semifinalists for the award are announced -- ensuring that athletes can play themselves into consideration for the award. The GSA trophy will be awarded live in Los Angeles on July 17.
Here's Who's Hot
Sophomore infielder Connor Teykl is 4-for-10 with three RBI, a pair of walks and a sacrifice the last three games... Senior designated hitter Chase McDowell is 5-for-his-last-13 (.385) with a home run. He also has a double for a .692 slugging percentage and three walks for a .500 on-base average... Defending C-USA Hitter of the Week John Clay Reeves' honors are listed below, but in a bigger sampling of games he's also now 6-for-16 (.375)... Michael Aquino is 4-for-11 (.364) with a double, an RBI and a walk in the last three games... Keep an eye on infielder Kirby Taylor, who is now 5-for-his-last-14 (.357) with a double and two runs scored... Skyler Ewing missed the Texas A&M game on Tuesday, but he is still 3-for-7 (.429) with three RBI, a home run and a double for a 1.000 slugging percentage.
Previous Outing Aggies Hold Off Rice Rally In Ninth
HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, but came up just 90 feet short in a 6-5 loss to visiting Texas A&M Tuesday night at Reckling Park. The Owls surrendered five early runs and fell behind 6-0 before chipping away for a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth. With no shortage of drama, the Blue & Gray then rallied for three more in the ninth to cut the margin to 6-5. Connor Teykl's two-out, bases-loaded single made it a one-run game and fans came to their feet when a pitch to Ford Stainback appeared to get away from home plate. Stainback was hit by the pitch, however, to load the bases as Rice batted around. Texas A&M worked out of the jam to preserve a 6-5 final.
Take A Closer Look
Rice has 14 losses, but a closer look is in order. Five losses were to teams that were nationally-ranked when the Owls faced them. Six losses were by a single run, and one of those was in extra innings. The final margin in eight of Rice's 14 losses has been two runs or less. Another one of the losses was to a streaking Sam Houston State team that went on to enter Baseball America's national rankings that same week. Consider that the Owls have had a number of the its star players, including Jordan Stephens, Zech Lemond, Shane Hoelscher, Leon Byrd and John Clay Reeves, all sidelined at various points during the season.
Reeves Named C-USA Hitter of the Week
IRVING, Tex. - Rice's John Clay Reeves has been named the C-USA Hitter of the Week for April 14-20. Last weekend Reeves batted a composite .417 to help Rice complete a three-game sweep of C-USA foe UAB. He had a base hit in all three league games, going 5-for-12 with three RBI, a home run and a run scored. The Monroe, La., native also had a sacrifice bunt and was hit by a pitch for a .462 on-base average. In a three-hit day on Saturday, Reeves knocked the game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning that helped Rice eventually win the game in extra innings. The junior catcher was rested in the mid-week game (April 15 at Lamar) in order to be ready to catch every inning of the C-USA weekend series - which ended-up being 29 innings total. In addition to calling Kevin McCanna's complete game shutout victory on Friday night, Reeves also threw out two would-be base stealers on the weekend (one at second, and one at third base). The Hitter of the Week Award is the second time for Reeves to earn the honor this season (also March 17). Owls Shane Hoelscher (April 14) and Skyler Ewing (Feb. 17) have also earned the accolade. Zech Lemond was named the league's Pitcher of the Week on March 24. East Carolina's Jeff Hoffman was named the April 21 C-USA Pitcher of the Week after striking out 16 in 8.0 innings against Middle Tennessee.
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
Florida Atlantic Sun Belt 42-22 19-11
UTSA WAC 35-25 15-11
Charlotte Atlantic 10 37-23 17-7
Florida International Sun Belt 26-32 13-17
Old Dominion Colonial 30-24 15-12
Louisiana Tech WAC 19-37 6-21
Middle Tennessee Sun Belt 28-28 11-19
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.
Conference Titles Streak At 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
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 162-51 (.761).
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.
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)
9. Middle Tennessee
10. Old Dominion
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
Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice is 7-5 in its all-white uniforms, 4-1 in all-gray, 3-2 in blue tops with white pants, 3-1 in blue tops with gray pants, 10-2 in its new home alternate, and now 2-3 in the new road 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. (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
Owls Take C-USA Championship Final 5-4 In 11 Innings
Junior Keenan Cook delivered the walk-off game-winning base hit in the bottom of the eleventh inning to lift the Rice baseball team to a 5-4 victory over visiting Southern Miss in the Championship Final of the Conference USA tournament Sunday afternoon at Reckling Park.