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Rice Meets Houston Tuesday at Constellation Field in Sugar Land

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May 13, 2014

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May 13 (Tue.) 6:30 pm; Houston vs. Rice at Constellation Field (Sugar Land)
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May 15 (Thur.) 6:30 pm; LA Tech at Rice
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May 16 (Fri.) 6:30 pm; LA Tech at Rice
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May 17 (Sat.) 1 pm; LA Tech at Rice
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All times listed are Central Time. Internet features activate at game time.

Rice Baseball Meets No. 12 Houston Tuesday at Constellation Field In Sugar Land
The Rice baseball team, 34-16 overall and ranked as high as No. 14 in the country, returns to action on Tuesday night, May 13. The Owls meet crosstown foe Houston in the third and final regular season game of the season-long series. First pitch against the Cougars, 39-13 overall and ranked as high as No. 12 in the nation, is set 6:30 pm at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas. The facility is the minor league home of the Atlantic League's Sugar Land Skeeters.

C-USA Title Is On The Line As Owls Host LA Tech This Weekend
After meeting Houston, Rice returns home to Reckling Park for a crucial three-game Conference USA series against Louisiana Tech May 15-17. Game times are set for 6:30 pm on both Thursday and Friday, with a 1 pm start in the Saturday finale. These are the final three league games in the regular season schedule. Rice owns a 20-7 C-USA record and a narrow one-game lead over second place UAB (34-16, 19-8) in the league standings. The Bulldogs enter the weekend with a 15-32 overall record and a
5-22 conference ledger.

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 1,938 - 1,525 - 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
USA Today 15 16
NCBWA 17 18
PerfectGame.com 17 16
College Sports Madness 19 21
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 20 21

 

 

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 all 302 Division I RPIs:
NCAA RPI     Current     Previous
Rice     6    7

Watch C-USA Home Games On OwlVision All Access
Most Rice home games, as well as 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.

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 1,031-416 with the Owls (615-152 at home, 323-205 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: 79-29 vs. Houston; 28-2 vs. Louisiana Tech; 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.

1,605 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,031 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,605 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,605-528 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Starting Pitcher
Coach Graham will announce Rice's starting pitchers for the games this week at a later time. Though two of the staff's regular starters, Zech Lemond and Jordan Stephens, are currently sidelined, the head coach has a wealth of talented options including senior right-hander Chase McDowell (4-4, 3.48), sophomore right-hander Kevin McCanna (5-3, 3.09), sophomore left-hander Blake Fox (10-0, 1.52), and freshman right-hander Jon Duplantier (2-2, 2.05) to name just a few.

Aquino Earns National & C-USA Honor
After leading the Owls to three victories including a C-USA series win, Rice senior left fielder Michael Aquino has earned both national and conference honors. Aquino was named one of eight Louisville Slugger National Players of the Week by Collegiate Baseball Magazine. Conference USA tabbed him as the league's Hitter of the Week. Aquino batted a composite .471 to help the Blue & Gray take a weekend road series at UTSA to remain in first place in the C-USA standings. In a total of four games he went a combined 8-for-17 with a team-best seven RBI, four runs scored, a grand slam home run and five doubles for a composite .941 slugging percentage. In the rubber-game of the UTSA series on Sunday, Aquino collected a season-best four hits and five RBI with two doubles and a grand slam. The Woodlands, Texas native also had two hits in the second game of that series to help Rice win that game, as well as another two hits in the midweek contest to lead Rice past crosstown foe Houston Baptist. He is the second Owl this season to earn Collegiate Baseball's weekly national honors. Skyler Ewing had the same accolades in the opening weekend of the season at Stanford. Aquino was also named the C-USA Hitter of the Week. UAB's Chase Mallard and FIU's Zac Curtis shared the C-USA Pitcher of the Week honors.

Here's Who's Hot
Senior outfielder Michael Aquino has actually been hot at the plate a litttle longer than his National Hitter of the Week acknowledges. The veteran is actually 15-for-35 (.429) with two home runs and five doubles for a .743 slugging percentage in the last nine games. Aquino also has 11 RBI and eight runs scored in that nine-game stretch... Senior third baseman Shane Hoelscher is 13-for-his-last-29 (.448) with three doubles, six RBI, four runs scored and a .500 on-base percentage over the last seven games... Junoir catcher John Clay Reeves has hit two home runs in the last five games for a .619 slugging percentage... Junior shortstop Ford Stainback went 3-for-9 with a triple and a walk in the final two games of the UTSA series... Keep an eye on infielder Kirby Taylor, who is now 7-for-his-last-16 (.438) with two doubles and four runs scored.

Previous Outing • Rice Pulls Away From UTSA Sunday, 11-2
SAN ANTONIO -  The Rice baseball team pulled away with eight unanswered runs over the final three innings to claim an 11-2 C-USA victory over state foe UTSA in the finale of the three-game weekend series Sunday afternoon in San Antonio, Texas. The Owls won the weekend series two-games-to-one. Sunday's contest was a tight 3-2 game before the Owls scored one in the seventh, one in the eighth, and then six in the ninth to stretch the final margin to 11-2. The highlight was a ninth inning grand slam home run by senior Michael Aquino. The standout from The Woodlands, Texas, paced Rice with a 4-for-5 day that included five RBI and two doubles to go along with the slam. As a team Rice has now posted double-digit hits in six of its last seven games. Freshman right-hander John Duplantier started on the mound and notched his second win of the season striking out a career-high eight in 5.0 innings. Trevor Teykl and Matt Ditman each worked two innings respectively and combined for another seven strikeouts on the day. UTSA dropped to 31-21 overall and 15-12 in league play.

Take A Closer Look
Rice has 16 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 ten of Rice's 16 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 (and has since returned to the national spotlight). 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.

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 166-53 (.758).

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

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.

Byrd Is Back
In Saturday's second game of the UTSA series (May 10) sophomore Leon Byrd returned to action for the first time since April 1 (vs. Texas). Byrd had been sidelined more than a month with a lower leg injury. The sophomore from Cypress, Texas, started both of the last two games of the UTSA series in centerfield where he went a combined 2-for-9 with a double, a walk and three runs scored. On Sunday he made a sensational catch of a tricky fly ball to the gap in right-center that saved at least one run and sparked Rice to an eventual 11-2 victory.

Houston Wins 2014 Silver Glove Trophy
Like the big rivalries in college football, the Rice and Houston baseball teams play a yearly series for an annual trophy, the Silver Glove. The teams began playing for the trophy in the 1998 season and Rice had won The Glove 15-of-16 times, including each of the last 13-consecutive years dating back to 2000. The Cougars have already clinched 2014's best-of-three series with a 3-0 at Rice (Feb. 19) and 6-2 decision at UH (Mar. 25).

More Rice & Houston History
The Silver Glove has only been around for 17 years. The Owls and Cougars have a long-standing rivalry that dates back to 1948. In 171 games played since the first meeting between the two schools in 1948, Rice leads the all-time series with Houston 100-71. The Owls have won 17-of-the-last-21 games of the series dating back to 2009. The teams became Southwest Conference rivals when UH joined that league in the 1970s. The teams renewed the conference rivalry from 2006-2013 as C-USA foes. There have been 49 one-run games in the series. In 2003 the city rivals played each other a record eight times.

Rice & Houston Outside The City Limits
Rice and Houston have met outside the Houston city limits a total of five times. In 1983 and 1990 the Cougars won SWC Tournament games held in Austin. In 2009, 2011 and 2012 Rice claimed wins in games played as part of the C-USA Tournament. All three of those were in the state of Mississippi, with the first in Hattiesburg and both of the last two in Jackson, Miss.

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, 6-1 in all-gray, 4-2 in blue tops with white pants, 3-2 in blue tops with gray pants, 11-2 in its new home alternate, and now 3-4 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 Ink Eight In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program signed eight high school standouts in November who will join the team for the 2015 season. The Owls' latest signing class includes four multi-position players who are versatile enough to contribute as both a pitcher and/or position player/hitter. All are from the high school ranks and seven of the eight are from the greater-Houston area who will be able to have their family and hometown fans continue to watch them play games at Rice's Reckling Park. The class includes Rhp/C Willy Amador from Bryan, Texas, infielders Tristan Gray of Missouri City and Dane Myers of Katy, outfielders Khevin Brewer of Richmond and Stone Garrett of Sugar Land, and the Houston trio of OF/Inf Ryan Chandler, Rhp Michael Rodgers, and Rhp/OF Ricardo Salinas.

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