Owls Face No. 20 Houston In Sugar Land

May 14, 2018

E-mail baseball SID John Sullivan

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PDF of Rice's pregame release

May 15 (Sat.) 7 pm; Rice vs. Houston at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas
GameTracker (activates at game time)
No webcast from Constellation Field. Use the above LISTEN/Rice audio link!

Rice Meets No. 20 Houston Tuesday Night At Constellation Field In Sugar Land
The Rice baseball team, 23-27-2 overall, plays the first of four-straight games away from home beginning on Tuesday (May 15). The Owls travel to Sugar Land, Texas, to play crosstown rival Houston in the finale of three regular season meetings scheduled in 2018. Tuesday's first pitch against the No. 20 ranked Cougars (31-20) is set for 7 pm at Constellation Field, the minor league home of the Sugar Land Skeeters... Rice then heads to Miami, Fla., for the season's final Conference USA weekend series scheduled for May 17-19. Red-hot FIU is the final hurdle of Rice making the C-USA Tournament. Game times against the Panthers are 6 pm on Thursday, 5 pm Friday, and 11 am Saturday (all times listed are Central Time).

Deciding Game For The Silver Glove Trophy
Tuesday's contest marks the third time in the last four years for the Silver Glove Trophy to be decided in the third and final game of the series.

No Webcast From Sugar Land
Note that with Tuesday's game vs. Houston being played at the neutral site of Constellation Field, there is no online video of this contest.

Play-By-Play Audio On The Web
Every Rice baseball game is scheduled for a live audio broadcast on the Internet at RiceOwls.com. Tune-in to the broadcast's pregame show 15 minutes before first pitch. J.P. Heath is in his tenth season in the booth as the Voice of the Owls.

Live Stats Links Online at RiceOwls.com
Links to live play-by-play text and statistics from every game, home and away, are posted on RiceOwls.com. Look for the links on the Rice Athletics front page, the weekly series preview, and/or the baseball schedule page.

Follow The Tweeting Rice Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceBaseball while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceAthletics. Twitter is perhaps the fastest way to get weather-related changes to the schedule/updated start times.

National Postseason Streak At 23-Straight
Rice baseball's 23-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the third-longest active streak in the nation. Three of the country's top four streaks of making the NCAA Tournament are all of the active variety. In 2017 Florida State made the field for the 40th-consecutive year, while Cal State Fullerton made it in for the 26th-straight year.

Watch Conference USA League Games Online Via CUSAtv
The Conference USA road series at FIU is slated for a live online video broadcast on CUSAtv. The broadcast is a subscription-based service which matches the play-by-play audio with a video feed to create a television-like production on the Internet (either live or in an archived format). Games that have been selected for TV broadcasts can alter the online availability. Links to away-game webcasts will be provided on RiceOwls.com when available.

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 27th season at Rice. The 2018 campaign marks his 38th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,170-524-2 with the Owls (691-200-1 at home, 369-250-1 on the road and 110-74 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .690, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .690 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 111 games in a single year... Graham is 85-36 vs. Houston (46-10 at home, 36-22 road, 3-4 neutral)... He is 16-5 vs. FIU (7-3 at home, 8-1 road, 1-1 neutral)... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2017, making 23-straight seasons for Rice to earn a NCAA appearance. The Blue & Gray has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17. 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, `14 and `17... 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, all 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 John Pope (Rice, 1990, Jones College; second year), Paul Janish (Rice, 2004; first year), and Jordan Kopycinski (Texas State, 2010; first year).

1,745 Collegiate Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,170 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,745 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,745-637-2 in a coaching career that began in 1981. (He has 37 years completed. He's now in his 38th of coaching college-age players).

Last Time Out: Rice Holds-Off UAB Rally In Ninth To Win 6-3
HOUSTON -- The Rice baseball team halted a bases-loaded rally in the ninth inning to hang-on for a dramatic 6-3 Conference USA victory over visiting UAB in head coach Wayne Graham's final home game at Reckling Park Sunday afternoon... With the win Sunday Rice is now 23-27-2 on the season and 11-14-2 in C-USA games to tie for seventh place in the league standings with UAB. Both the Owls and Blazers have identical .444 C-USA win-percentages, but by having won this weekend's head-to-head series Rice holds seventh in the C-USA standings while UAB (now 20-28 overall and 12-15 in conference) is listed eighth. There are still another three key league games to play next weekend, so note that the top eight teams that will make the conference postseason tournament is far from official just yet... Sunday was certainly a big step in the right direction, and it came down to the game's final pitch... Down 6-3 to start the top of the ninth inning, UAB's top of the batting order continued to fight. A leadoff single, walk and hit batsman loaded the bases with no outs. Rice veteran right-hander Kendal Jefferies, however, had been in tight spots like this before. The versatile junior from Spring, Texas, got UAB to hit a shallow fly to right field (where the Blazers elected not to try to turn the out into a run-scoring sac fly). Jefferies then induced an infield-fly-rule out to shortstop, before getting the final batter with a swinging strikeout on a full count. Jefferies secured his team-leading fourth save of the season while the team got some necessary breathing room in the conference standings... It was the top of the UAB batting order that had initially jumped on the scoreboard for a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. Back-to-back doubles by Colton Schultz and Carter Pahris scored one run before Pharis was later able to score on a wild pitch... Fresh from their Rice Senior-Day recognition held in a pregame ceremony, Owl veterans Andrew Dunlap and Chace Sarchet put together some two-out magic to tie the game in the bottom of the second. Dunlap knocked a two-out double and scored from second on Sarchet's single to right field. Sarchet advanced to scoring position on a walk to Bradley Gneiting, and then dashed home on Justin Collins' single to left-center... The Blazers broke the deadlock with a run on four hits in the sixth, but Rice answered with two in the bottom of the frame. Dominic DiCaprio led off with a big double to right and Trei Cruz followed with a walk to put runners on first and second... UAB could very well have expected Dunlap, a slugger with no sac bunts who is second on the team in home runs this season (and who in fact hit two homers in a game against the Blazers a year ago in Birmingham) to try and drive the ball hard like all the scouting reports says he does. Coach Graham, however, had Dunlap get DiCaprio & Cruz into scoring position with a sacrifice (while also staying out of a double-play). It worked to perfection... Dunlap put down a text-book sac bunt to advance the Owl runners. The red-hot-hitting Sarchet followed with a base hit through the left side to drive-in both for his third RBI of the day... The Owls were now up 4-3, but the offense wasn't quite finished. Rice added two more insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth to stretch the margin to 6-3. Having a new three-run lead was a safer spot to be in as UAB tried to battle back in the ninth... Almost lost in all the day's story lines and out-of-town scoreboard-watching was a sensational relief effort by Rice true freshman Dane Acker. The right-hander from Brenham, Texas, worked a career-long 6.1 innings allowing just one run as Rice battled to get in font of UAB, twice.

Here's Who's Hot
Sophomore third baseman Braden Comeaux recorded a sensational three-game series against UAB over the weekend. He was 5-for-13 (.385) with a pair of doubles and five RBI... Over the last four games senior Chase Sarchet is a combined 5-of-14 (.357) with three RBI and three runs scored... Keep an eye out as junior designated hitter Dominic DiCaprio continues to make his way back after being sidelined for most of the season. In his last five games DiCaprio is 5-for-16 (.313) with a home run and a double (.563%). He's also drawn three walks and been hit by a pitch twice for a .476 OB%.

Career Climber
Over the weekend Ryan Chandler broke the Rice school record for official career at bats. He now has 933 heading into the Houston game. Chandler also started his 237th career game Sunday and now needs three more starts to tie Diego Seastrunk (2007-2010) for third all-time at Rice. On the base hits list, Chandler has 276 and is nine away from tying Lance Berkman (1995-1997) for fourth all-time at Rice. Chandler also has 55 career doubles which is tied for ninth all-time with Brian Friday (2005-2007). The duo of Joe Savery and Rick Hague share the next spot on the Rice list with 56 doubles.

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice's 2018 W-L records while wearing the various uniforms is as follows:
9-6-1 in all-white
7-7 in all pinstripes
6-6 in all-gray
1-6-1 in blue Rice jersey with pinstripe pants
0-1 in blue Rice jersey with white pants
0-1 in blue Rice jersey with gray pants

New At Reckling Park! Bixby Batting Barn; New Fan "Roost"
Rice's Reckling Park, the best place to watch and play a college game, is better than ever this season after its most-recent renovations that benefit both the student-athletes and fans. In the on-going commitment to player development, the enclosed Bixby Batting Barn down the right-field line has been upgraded with expansion and remodeling. The final phase of the upgrade is the installment of large color banners showcasing the program's 37 former Owls who have gone on to play in the major leagues. The true-blue fans meanwhile will be sure to flock to the permanent new `Roost' on the first base side for in-game hospitality. The fully-air conditioned facility features its own restrooms, lobby and service area, as well as a tiered outdoor patio that is close to the action but safe with newly installed netting.

Rice Owls On The Coaching Staff
There are two former Rice Owls on Wayne Graham's 2018 coaching staff. Rice graduate and two-time Texas High School Baseball Coach of the Year John Pope (Jones College, 1990) is in his second season as an assistant coach at his alma mater. He played his final two collegiate seasons at Rice in 1988 and 1989 and went on to log 19 years of coaching in the high school ranks in the greater Houston area. Former major leaguer and 2003 Rice National Champion Paul Janish joined the Owls' baseball staff as an assistant coach in August of 2017. Janish (Wiess College) played professionally the last 13 years with nine seasons in the major leagues, most recently in 2017 with the Baltimore Orioles... "It is a unique challenge to be a student-athlete at Rice," coach Graham explained. "I like having former Rice players on the coaching staff who have already been through the experience. It is important our players are able to relate to the staff in that way."

Rookie Ball!
There are some Rice newcomers to keep an eye on in 2018. Third baseman Braden Comeaux joins the Owls as a sophomore transfer from LSU-Eunice, the No. 2 junior college program in the nation. Comeaux started 55 games for the Bengals primarily at shortstop, where he batted .377 with 53 runs scored, 49 RBI, a .447 on-base percentage and 30 stolen bases. True freshman second baseman Trei Cruz is a highly honored switch-hitting prep standout from nearby Episcopal High School who was selected in the 33rd round of the 2017 Major League Draft by the hometown Astros. Cruz is a Rice University legacy player as his father, Jose Cruz Jr. (1993-1995), and uncle, Enrique Cruz (2001-2003) both played for coach Graham.

21 Conference Titles In The Last 22 Years
After one year away Rice reclaimed a conference championship in 2017 by winning the C-USA Tournament title in Biloxi, Miss. From 1996 to 2015 the Owls had won or shared a total of 20-straight conference championships (including either regular season and/or conference tournament titles). The streak covered membership in three different leagues beginning with the Southwest Conference (1996), to nine seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1997-2005) and now 11 C-USA titles from 2006-2017. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 22 years:
Year    Conf.    Regular Season    Conf. Tourney
2017    C-USA    6th    1st
2016    C-USA    4th    2nd
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

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 19 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999-2017 (note: this listing will not be updated to include games played in 2018):
Team    Years    Wins    Loses    Ties    PCT
Florida State    19    922    344    1    .728
Rice    19    870    357    0    .709
North Carolina    19    846    360    1    .701
LSU    19    859    374    6    .696
South Carolina    19    861    380    0    .694
Cal St. Fullerton    19    814    371    0    .687
Coastal Carolina    19    806    368    1    .686
Miami (Fla.)    19    813    371    3    .686
Oral Roberts    19    776    360    0    .683
Texas    19    811    397    1    .671
Arizona State    19    731    367    2    .665
Virginia    19    765    393    3    .660
Georgia Tech    19    773    405    1    .656
Oregon State    19    715    381    1    .652
TCU    19    766    411    0    .651
Florida    19    789    426    2    .649
Louisville    19    757    412    1    .647
Clemson    19    795    433    1    .647
Nebraska    19    738    409    3    .643
Stanford    19    732    411    2    .640
Florida Atlantic    19    725    410    2    .639
Texas A&M    19    759    431    3    .637
Kent State    19    712    405    0    .637
Dallas Baptist    12    451    257    0    .637
East Carolina    19    729    420    4    .634
Oklahoma St.    19    724    424    0    .631
Southern Miss    19    727    426    1    .630
Tulane    19    726    429    2    .628
Col. of Charleston    19    704    418    2    .627
Vanderbilt    19    737    439    1    .627
Louisiana    19    724    437    2    .623
St. John's    19    669    408    3    .621
Ole Miss    19    726    448    1    .618
Arkansas    19    723    453    0    .615





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