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Owls Play Weekend Series at Southern Miss

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April 23, 2014

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Apr. 25 (Fri.) 6 pm; Rice at Southern Miss
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Apr. 26 (Sat.) 2 pm; Rice at Southern Miss
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Apr. 27 (Sun.) 1 pm; Rice at Southern Miss
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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
USA Today 11 14
Baseball America 12 16
NCBWA 16 16
PerfectGame.com 17 20
College Sports Madness 21 22
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 19 24

 

High RPI

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.

 

Starting Pitchers

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)

6. FIU

7. UTSA

8. Charlotte

9. Middle Tennessee

10. Old Dominion

11. UAB

12. Marshall

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

The Last Meeting
Southern Miss4  
Rice5(11 inn.)
May 26, 2013
Reckling Park
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.


 

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