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Focused On The Finish; Owls Return To Action Wednesday Night vs. HBU

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May 6, 2014

LISTEN to all Rice games via the Internet audio home page
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PDF of Rice's latest pregame release
VISIT the Rice Baseball Ticket Page

May 7 (Wed.) 6:30 pm; Houston Baptist at Rice
Watch the game on the web
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May 9 (Fri.) 6 pm; Rice at UTSA
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May 10 (Sat.) 2 pm; Rice at UTSA ;
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May 11 (Sun.) 1 pm; Rice at UTSA;
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All times listed are Central Time. Internet features activate at game time.

Rice Baseball Hosts Crosstown Foe Houston Baptist Wednesday In Return From Semester Finals
The Rice baseball team, 31-15 overall and ranked as high as No. 14 in the country, returns to the diamond on May 7 for the squad's first game since April 27. The Owls had a break in the playing schedule while the University was in its final exams period of the spring semester. The Blue & Gray host crosstown foe Houston Baptist Wednesday. First pitch against the Huskies (22-22 overall) is set 6:30 pm at Reckling Park.

Owls Return To Conference USA Action Friday at UTSA
After hosting HBU, Rice plays a crucial three-game Conference USA weekend series on the road at Texas-San Antonio May 9-11. Game times are set for 6 pm Friday, 2 pm on Saturday, and 1 pm on Sunday. The series is sure to weigh heavily in the C-USA standings where there are just six league games left in the regular season schedule. Rice owns an 18-6 C-USA record and a two-game lead on second place UAB. The UTSA Roadrunners enter the weekend with a 30-19 overall record and a
14-10 conference ledger.

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 1,935 - 1,524 - 9.

National Rankings Update • Rice Ranked No. 14
Rice is nationally-ranked in a host of different college baseball polls. The Owls are No. 14 in the nation according to the latest Baseball America poll. 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 14 14
PerfectGame.com 16 16
USA Today 16 17
NCBWA 18 18
College Sports Madness 21 21
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 21 23


Sky-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 official national listing of 302 Division I RPIs:
NCAA RPI     Current     Previous
Rice     7    8

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 1,028-415 with the Owls (614-152 at home, 321-204 on the road games and 93-59 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .712, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .712 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 week's opponents are as follows: 5-0 vs. HBU; 11-1 vs. UTSA; 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.

1,602 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,028 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,602 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,602-527 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Chase McDowell To Start Tuesday; Remaining Starters TBA
Wayne Graham announced senior right-hander Chase McDowell (3-4, 3.78) would start Tuesday against Houston Baptist. Coach Graham will officially announce the rest of the week's remaining rotation at a later time.
• A year ago Chase McDowell finished fourth on the Rice staff in starts (6), fifth in innings (53.0) and sixth in appearances (17), but his success in 2014 has now led to an even bigger role. McDowell is tied for second on the team with eight starts and has contributed a 3-4 record with a 3.78 ERA in 47.2 total innings. Consider that with C-USA preseason honoree Jordan Stephens sidelined for the remainder of the season, McDowell is now the staff's most experienced starting pitcher with 20 career starts. He stepped in to a weekend starter's role and immediately contributed with wins over TCU, at Sam Houston State and at Florida International. The College Station, Texas, native averages 6.2 strikeouts per 9.0 innings of work and has maintained a 2.8-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He pitched a season-long 7.0 innings allowing only two runs in a C-USA start against Florida Atlantic, and then 6.0 shutout innings against C-USA foe East Carolina (only to earn a no decision in both games). McDowell also has made four appearances as a middle reliever. He's held all opposing hitters to a .280 batting average. The veteran right-hander is one of three Rice players with the versatile role of serving as both a hitter and a pitcher, and so far he is the only Rice Owl to hit and pitch in the same game (seven times this season).
• Houston Baptist announced its starting pitcher as junior right-hander Ross Kennell (2-4, 7.59).

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
It's been more than a week since the team's last game, but check out how some the team's veterans have done as of late: Senior third baseman Shane Hoelscher, was 7-for-his-last-12 (.583) with a double, four RBI and two runs scored heading into the break... Senior designated hitter Chase McDowell is 10-for-his-last-24 (.417) with a home run and two doubles for a .625 slugging percentage and six walks for a .533 on-base average... Senior outfielder Michael Aquino is 7-for-18 (.389) with a home run, four RBI and four runs scored in the last five games... Senior right fielder Keenan Cook went 3-for-8 (.375) with two RBI and a .500 on-base average in the final two games of the Southern Miss series... Junoir catcher John Clay Reeves went 2-for-5 with a home run in the final game of the Southern Miss series... Keep an eye on infielder Kirby Taylor, who is now 5-for-his-last-14 (.357) with a double and two runs scored.

Previous Outing • Southern Miss Holds-off Rice Rally (April 27)              
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Rice baseball team collected double-digit hits and was able to score in six different innings, but Southern Miss claimed an 8-6 win over the visiting Owls in the finale of the C-USA weekend series April 27 in Hattiesburg, Miss. Rice won the series two games to one. Taking two on the road was critical as the Owls remained in first place in the conference standings with an 18-6 ledger. Southern Miss was able to get on the scoreboard with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. Tim Lynch was hit by a pitch and Matt Durst and Mason Robbins followed with consecutive singles for a 1-0 advantage. The Owls answered with a tying run in the top of the second. Chase McDowell lined a base hit that landed in right field and consecutive walks to Shane Hoelscher and Connor Teykl loaded the stations. McDowell came home on Michael Aquino's sacrifice fly to right field that made it 1-1. The Golden Eagles were again a little wild in the third inning which the Owls opportunistically turned into a run. Keenan Cook was hit by a pitch to lead it off. He went to second on Charlie Warren's sacrifice bunt and to third on a single by John Clay Reeves. Cook dashed home on a USM wild pitch for the lead at 2-1. The Blue & Gray added a third run in the fourth. Aquino reached on a USM fielding error and moved to scoring position on a fielder's choice. He sprinted home on Cook's two-out single to right for a 3-1 advantage. The Golden Eagles came right back and tied the game in the bottom of the fourth. Rice issued three free passes before Lynch delivered a two-out, bases-loaded single for a 3-3 score. Reeves led off the top of the fifth with a towering home run to left. His fourth round-tripper of the season was Rice's fourth-straight inning with a single run to make it 4-3. A longball delivered USM's biggest inning of the weekend in the sixth. The Golden Eagles strung together three-straight hits to leadoff the frame and a hit batter forced-in one run to tie the score, 4-4. Durst then connected on a pitch for a grand slam that doubled the margin, 8-4. Rice continued to fight and scored single runs in the seventh and eighth. Hoelscher hustled to drive in a run on a fielder's choice. In the eighth Aquino went deep with a solo homer that put Rice back within two, 8-6. The Blue & Gray had one final chance in the top of the ninth putting two men on base, USM worked out of the jam to hold on for the 8-6 final. The Owls successfully put the leadoff man on base a total of five times in the game and manufactured runs in six of nine innings - all of the single digit variety. The trio of Hoelscher, Reeves and McDowell all had two hits. Even in coming up just short of the possible sweep Rice now has its most C-USA league wins since 2008 (21). The team's overall total of 31 wins heading into the finals break is the squad's most since winning 34 in that same 2008 season..

Take A Closer Look
Rice has 15 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 nine of Rice's 15 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.

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 164-52 (.759).

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 entered 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, 5-1 in all-gray, 3-2 in blue tops with white pants, 3-2 in blue tops with gray pants, 10-2 in its new home alternate, and now 3-3 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


 

 

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