By John Sullivan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - On the eve of the 2015 Conference USA Baseball Championship to be held in Hattiesburg, Miss., no less than seven Rice Owls have earned all-league accolades the C-USA office announced on Tuesday (May 19).
Under the daily training and development program of Rice head coach Wayne Graham, Owls Matt Ditman (P), Austin Orewiler (P), John Clay Reeves (DH), Ford Stainback (Inf.) and Jordan Stephens (P) were named to the C-USA first team. Kirby Taylor (OF) earned second team all-conference. Rice rookie Ryan Chandler (OF) was named to the league's All-Freshman team with the added honor of being tabbed as the C-USA Freshman of the Year. All the award winners were selected on a vote of the conference's head coaches, sports information directors and a media representative who covers each program.
Ditman delivered on his selection as a 2015 preseason all-conference honoree, ranking among the team and C-USA leaders in saves (10), opponents' batting average (.212), strikeouts (64), ERA (2.61) and appearances (26). The senior right-hander gets extended work in practically every appearance, averaging almost exactly 2.0 innings per outing. He averages 11.2 strikeouts per 9.0 innings and has maintained a 4.9-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
Orewiler's dramatic improvement has led to a more prominent role and increased work-load this season. The right-hander has contributed equally as both a starter and reliever, maintaining a 2.70 ERA in 70.0 innings. The Galveston, Texas, native ranks among the C-USA leaders in ERA, strikeouts (66) and opponents' average (.230). At just under 6.0 innings for each of his seven starts, Orewiler also averages 8.5 strikeouts per 9.0 innings with a 2.5-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He struck out a career-high 11 batters in a start against crosstown rival and nationally-ranked Houston.
Stainback has started 52 of the team's 53 games, all at second base. The senior ranks among the C-USA leaders in batting average (.322), runs (46), hits (66), triples (3), and OB% (.402). The veteran is such a steady hitter that he maintained an identical .322 average in C-USA league games that he did in non-conference action. Stainback has 16 multi-hit games this year, including a season-best four hits in a game twice. He reached base in 24-straight games during one stretch, but his offense was only part of the story. The Dallas native maintains a .972 fielding percentage with 135 assists, and he has started or turned 28 double plays.
If the conference had a `comeback player of the year' it might have gone to Stephens. The redshirt junior has been solid in his return to action after sitting out most of last season with an injury. Stephens is among the C-USA leaders in wins (6) and strikeouts (63). Each victory, one save, and all but 6.2 innings, were all against C-USA opponents. The Alvin, Texas, native averages 11.8 strikeouts per 9.0 innings, and has maintained a 4.5-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
It's been a busy week for Reeves and Taylor to win league awards. Both were named to the C-USA All-Academic team on Monday (May 18). In addition to a team-leading eight home runs, .503 slugging percentage and 54 RBI in 50 games played, Reeves is second in batting average (.335) and walks (24) for a .435 on-base average. The senior originally from Monroe, La., also maintained a 3.33 grade point average as a sport management major.
Taylor leads the Owls and is among the best in the Conference with a .347 batting average. He has collected two or more hits in a game 18 times and is third on the squad with 29 RBI. In the classroom Taylor maintained a 3.42 grade point average in Economics, with a Business minor.
Chandler is the fourth Owl in C-USA history to earn Freshman of the Year, a prestigious list that includes eventual major league draft picks Austin Kubitza (2011), Anthony Rendon (2009) and Ryan Berry (2007). The rookie from Houston has started all 53 games in centerfield, including 51 as the leadoff hitter in the order. Chandler has batted a steady .297 for the full season and .290 in C-USA only games. He's collected two or more hits in a game a team-leading 20 times, with a career-high three hits on six different occasions. The former prep star from Strake Jesuit has maintained a .378 on-base percentage and reached base in 21 consecutive games during one stretch. The fleet fielder has displayed eye-opening defensive range patrolling centerfield.
The Rice baseball team next competes in the annual C-USA Tournament to be held in Hattiesburg, Miss., beginning on Wednesday (May 20). Rice, the No. 1 seed, meets No. 8 seed FIU at 12:30 pm at Pete Taylor Park on the Southern Miss campus. The tournament concludes with a one-game championship final on Sunday (May 24). The full list of C-USA baseball's all-conference honorees is as follows.
2015 CONFERENCE USA BASEBALL AWARDS
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Brendon Sanger, Jr., OF, Florida Atlantic
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
James McMahon, Sr., RHP, Southern Miss
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Ryan Chandler, Fr., OF, Rice
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Ronnie Jebavy, Jr., OF, Middle Tennessee
KEITH LECLAIR COACH OF THE YEAR
Jim McGuire, Middle Tennessee
ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR
Michael Federico, Southern Miss
FIRST TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
IF Jesse Baker, Jr., UTSA
IF CJ Chatham, So., Florida Atlantic
IF Edwin Rios, Jr., FIU
IF Ford Stainback, Sr., Rice
OF Ronnie Jebavy, Jr., Middle Tennessee
OF Anderson Miller, Jr., WKU
OF Brendon Sanger, Jr., Florida Atlantic
C John Bormann, Sr., UTSA
DH/UT John Clay Reeves, Sr., Rice
SP James McMahon, Sr., Southern Miss
SP James Naile, Sr., UAB
SP Austin Orewiler, Jr., Rice
SP Jordan Stephens, Jr., Rice
RP Matt Ditman, Sr., Rice
SECOND TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
IF P.J. Higgins, Jr., Old Dominion
IF Danny Hudzina, Jr., WKU
IF Tim Lynch, Jr., Southern Miss
IF Ricky Santiago, Sr., Florida Atlantic
OF Roman Collins, Jr., Florida Atlantic
OF Brad Jarreau, So.., Middle Tennessee
OF Brian Portelli, Sr., FIU
OF Kirby Taylor, Sr., Rice
C Esteban Tresgallo, Jr., UAB
DH/UT Adam Lau, Jr., UAB
SP Chase Boster, So., Marshall
SP Nate Hoffmann, Jr., Middle Tennessee
SP Drew Jackson, Sr., Florida Atlantic
SP Phil Maton, Sr., Louisiana Tech
SP Sam Sinnen, So., Old Dominion
RP Danny Dopico, Jr., FIU
C Ryan Miller, Florida Atlantic
C Brent Diaz, Louisiana Tech
IF Taylor Braley, Southern Miss
IF Zach Rutherford, Old Dominion
OF Ryan Chandler, Rice
OF Trent Bowles, UTSA
OF Brett Netzer, Charlotte
RHP Blake Stansberry, Middle Tennessee
LHP Kirk McCarty, Southern Miss
RHP Chance Kirby, UTSA
LHP Ryan Ruggles, UAB