Rice Starts Three-Game C-USA Series Friday at FIU

May 6, 2016

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May 6 (Fri.) 5:30 pm (Central Time); Rice at FIU
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May 7 (Fri.) 5:30 pm (Central Time); Rice at FIU
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May 8 (Fri.) 11 am (Central Time); Rice at FIU
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The Rice baseball team, 28-14 overall and ranked as high as No. 14 in the nation this week by both Baseball America and D1Baseball.com, returns to the road for Conference USA league play on May 6 (Fri.). Rice plays a key three-game weekend series at FIU. Game times vs. the Panthers are set for 5:30 pm (Central Time) on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday's first pitch is scheduled for 11 am (Central Time). Rice enters the week tied with Southern Miss for first place in the C-USA standings. There is almost no margin for error in the nine remaining league games.

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.

National Rankings Update • Owls Ranked As High As No. 14
Here's a closer look at some of the national rankings, as well as Rice's spot in the same poll from last week:
Organization            Current    Previous
Baseball America            14        15
D1Baseball.com              14        16
College Sports Madness      16        20
College Baseball Central    21        23
PerfectGame.com             22        24
Collegiate Baseball         21        29
USA Today/ESPN              --        --
NCBWA                       --        --

NCAA RPI at No. 31
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. 31 RPI in the nation heading into this weekend. Rice is among three C-USA schools ranked in the current RPI top 35.

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.

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 1,104-456 with the Owls (661-169 at home, 345-218 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 12-3 vs. FIU... 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.

1,679 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,104 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,679 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,679-569 in a 35-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Possible Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham will announce Rice's starting pitchers for the FIU series at a later time. Here's an updated look at last week's starting pitchers for the home series vs. Charlotte (April 29-30).
• Veteran Jon Duplantier (5-4, 2.43 ERA) has been sound and solid in his 11 starts this season, working at least 6.0 innings in each outing for a team-leading total of 77.2 frames. The Katy, Texas, native averages an eye-opening 11.5 strikeouts per 9.0 innings with a 3.5-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He's faced four nationally-ranked teams in Arizona, Arkansas, East Carolina and Southern Miss, 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 then picked up the league pitching honor a second time for his first complete game, a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts and no earned runs against ODU. He notched his fifth game with double-digit strikeouts last weekend vs. Charlotte. For the year he's held opposing hitters to an austere .193 combined batting average. 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 and cross-checkers tracking his every pitch.
• Senior Blake Fox has pitched well in his 11 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 2.78 ERA and held opponents to a composite .237 batting average in 6.2 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 nine of his 11 starts his offensive teammates have supported him with only a .179 composite batting average and just 1.8 runs per game. For his collegiate career, Fox is 29-8 with a 2.53 ERA in 295.0 collegiate innings. The Houston native is the Rice's active leader in career appearances (61), starts (44) and strikeouts (210).
• When Ricardo Salinas was given a day to rest last week from his normal Sunday spot in the C-USA weekend roatation, Willy Amador stepped-in on relatively short notice. Amador has shown improvement in his second season of Division I baseball, posting a 2-0 record and 3.72 ERA in 29.0 innings compiled from a total of ten appearances. The Bryan, Texas, native made his first start of the year on Feb. 24 against Texas State where he finished with a no-decision. He has since started five more times, a list of foes that includes No. 3 Texas A&M, crosstown rival Houston, Sam Houston State, Charlotte and Texas State (in a rematch). The 6-foot right-hander has averaged almost exactly 4.0 innings in his four starts to go along with a 3.72 ERA. Overall he owns a 3.6-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio that is the second-best on the Rice staff. A start Sunday would be the ninth of Amador's collegiate career.

Previous Game: Rice Defeats 31-Win Lamar Team Wednesday Night
HOUSTON - Freshman and Beaumont native Ford Proctor went 3-for-4 with one of the Rice baseball team's season-high seven extra-base hits, while fellow freshman Zach Esquivel was solid in his first career start on the mound to pace the Owls to a 7-2 victory over visiting Lamar Wednesday evening at Reckling Park in Houston... Lamar was first on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning. With one away Cardinal third baseman Robin Adames connected on a pitch for his third homerun of the season and a 1-0 lead... Rice answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the third on triples by both Dominic DiCaprio and Ryan Chandler. Two triples in the same inning may not be the most-common of ways to get on the board, but the extra-base hits soon seemed almost contagious... After Rice took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Proctor alertly hustling home from third on a Cardinal wild pitch, the Owls went on an extra-base spree. DiCaprio led off with a double to left, and scored easily on Charlie Warren's one-out triple to the gap in right-center. Warren trotted home on a sacrifice fly by Chandler, but the Blue & Gray wasn't finished. Dane Myers doubled to center and Proctor followed by driving a double off the wall in right for a 5-1 Rice advantage... Esquivel meanwhile had settled-in for the best game of his collegiate career. The right-hander from League City retired 12 in a row during one stretch to work his way into the sixth inning. Esquivel finished his first career start pitching a career-best 5.2 innings, scattering four hits with no walks while striking out a career-high six. He was in a tight spot in the sixth with one away and two men in scoring position, but first Myers made a sensational diving stop on a grounder to the left side that held the Cardinal runners in check. Reliever Glenn Otto then ended the threat with a dramatic strikeout... With 31 wins already under their belt Lamar continued to battle. The Cardinals added a run on three hits in the eighth, but Rice came right back with two more in the bottom of the frame. Proctor laced a leadoff single up the middle and scored on Tristan Gray's long double to center. Gray touched home on Grayson Lewis' RBI single that stretched the margin to 7-2... Myers, who had moved from third base to the mound, closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth. It was a sound win for Rice over a good team. The Owls improved to 28-14 on the season. Lamar is now 31-12 overall.

Here's Who's Hot
Someone throw some water on sophomore outfielder Tristan Gray. Gray enters the week with a career-best 12-game hitting streak where he is 22-for-44 (.500) with four doubles and a triple for a .636 slugging percentage. He's also scored six runs, driven-in six, and had two sac bunts during his recent hitting spree... True freshman Ford Proctor tallied his team-leading 12th multi-hit game Wednesday vs. Lamar. In his last ten games the Beaumont, Texas, native is 17-for-39 (.436) with three doubles, six runs scored and a stolen base... In the last five games senior Grayson Lewis is a combined 6-for-17 (.385) with two doubles for a .471 slugging percentage. He's also driven-in four runs, scored three times, had a sac bunt and walked twice for a .421 on-base average... Keep an eye on sophomore CF Ryan Chandler, who is now 5-for-8 (.625) with four RBI and a 1.000 slugging percentage in his last two games.

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice's 2016 W-L records while wearing the various uniforms is as follows:
10-4 in all-white
8-5 in pinstripes
5-1 in blue tops with pinstripe pants
4-4 in gray `birds' tops
1-0 in blue tops with white pants

Otto On Midseason Stopper of the Year Watch List
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Otto is one of 40 players on the midseason watch list for the annual Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top Division I relief pitcher by National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, the organization announced... Otto was named to the award's preseason watch list in February and has been sensational for the Owls in 2016. The sophomore right-hander has posted seven saves as well as a 6-1 record in 22 appearances. He has maintained a 1.33 ERA in 47.1 innings and held opposing hitter to a combined .198 batting average. Otto averages an eye-opening 10.5 strikeouts per 9.0 innings with a 5-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio... A native of Spring, Texas, Otto is one of four Conference USA pitchers on the award's midseason watch list. The SEC led the way with five players on the list while Pac-12 had four and the ACC had three. A total of 20 different conferences were represented. Virginia Commonwealth junior Sam Donko is the national saves leader with 15 saves... The NCBWA will announce five finalists for the 2016 Stopper of the Year - the Division I national saves leader and four other relief pitching standouts - on Wednesday, June 8, prior to the start of NCAA Super Regional competition. The NCBWA's All-America Committee will select the winner, with this year's recipient to be announced during the 2016 College World Series... The NCBWA, founded in 1962, presents the Dick Howser Trophy to the nation's top player. It also selects All-America Teams for all Divisions, a Division I Freshman All-American team, Division I and III Players of the Week, Division I District Players of the Year and Division III Players of the Year.

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 206-67 (.755).

Proctor Makes Watch List For Shortstop of the Year Award
LUBBOCK, Texas - Rice true freshman Ford Proctor has been added to the midseason watch list for Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award, presented annually by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, the organization announced from its headquarters in Lubbock, Texas... The Owl rookie has worked his way into 40-consecutive starts at shortstop, where he is batting a steady .319 with a .410 on-base percentage. Proctor has scored 20 runs, drive-in 18 and is second on the squad with four stolen bases.

Kopy That
He may have had a rough start to the season, but senior catcher Hunter Kopycinski is now 14-for-his-last-59 (.237) with nine walks for a .338 on-base average. Being a catcher is certainly one of baseball's more demanding positions, but Kopycinski isn't exactly sharing the work recently. The Houston native has started 19 of the last 20 games behind the plate where the Owls are 14-5. In this stretch where Kopycinski has caught almost each of the last 177.1 innings, the Rice pitching staff has enjoyed a composite 1.98 ERA with him behind the plate.

Myers & Otto On 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 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 41 games at third base. He owns a .257 batting average, leads the Owls with four triples and 25 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 1.33 ERA, held opposing hitters to a composite .198 average and been Rice's winning pitcher six times. He has struck out 55 batters in 47.1 innings, an eye-opening 10.46 strikeouts per 9.0 innings of work.

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 was eventual major leaguer Josh Rodriguez vs. Miami-Ohio in 2004. As a team Rice had three triples in the May 4 win vs. Lamar, including two in one inning.

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 was a TV game. The next 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

 

 

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