Rice Baseball, 35-18 overall and ranked as high as No. 15 in the nation in the latest baseball writer's poll, is the No. 1 seed of the 2015 Conference USA Championship beginning this Wednesday through Sunday (May 20-24) in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Championship will be held at Southern Miss' Pete Taylor Park, and features the league's top eight teams in two Omaha-style double-elimination brackets. The winner of the Championship earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins May 29 at 16 regional sites across the country.
Baseball Sweeps Saturday Double-header; Clinches C-USA Title Outright
The Rice baseball team needed only one win Saturday vs. FIU, but picked up two 3-2 & 7-4, to claim the 2015 C-USA regular season title outright.
Ever Rice meets eighth-seed FIU (25-29 overall, 13-17 C-USA) on Wednesday at 12:30 pm. The Owls then face either four-seed Middle Tennessee (30-24, 17-13) or five seed UTSA (32-23, 17-13) on Thursday at either 9 am (loser's bracket) or 4 pm (winner's bracket). The Championship Final of the 20th annual tournament will be just one game on Sunday beginning at 12 noon. That contest is scheduled for a live telecast by CBS Sports Network.
Watch The Tournament Games With C-USA Digital Upgrade
Every game of the C-USA Championship is slated for a live on-line video broadcast by OwlVision All Access in conjunction with an upgrade to the C-USA Digital Network package. Links to the service are provided above.
Audio Broadcasts - Catch Every Rice Baseball Game 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 seventh season as the regular voice of the Owls. The veteran broadcaster has the call this week from Hattiesburg.
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, the baseball schedule page.
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.
National Rankings Update Owls Ranked As High As No. 15
The Owls are as high as No. 15 in the national college baseball writer's poll. Here's a closer look at some of the latest national rankings, and changes from last week (as available at press time): Poll Current Previous
NCBWA 15 13
USA Today/ESPN 16 14
College Sports Madness 17 17
D1Baseball.com 21 20
Baseball America 21 21
CollegeBaseballDaily 22 18
Collegiate Baseball Magazine 24 19
PerfectGame.com 25 25
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 24th season at Rice. The 2015 campaign marks his 35th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,074-438 with the Owls (641-162 at home, 336-214 on the road and 97-62 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .710, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .710 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 115 games in a single year... Graham's record vs. the three teams on Rice's half of the C-USA bracket is: 12-2 vs. FIU, 4-3 vs. Middle Tennessee, and 16-3 vs. UTSA... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2014, making 20-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. 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 now 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 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; tenth year), Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; fourth year) and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; third year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Shepherd coaches at first.
1,649 Wins A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,074 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,649 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,649-549 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.
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 2015 season is, however, only the Owls' 99th 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 1,981 - 1,547 - 9.
Possible Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham will announce Rice's starting pitchers for the C-USA Championship at a later time. Here are some capsules, listed alphabetically, of the Owls to start each of the team's four games last week.
A host of news organizations had a preseason All-America team leading up to the 2015 campaign, and Blake Fox was on just about every one of them. In 14 starts this year Fox is 8-2 with a 3.34 ERA... In 49 career appearances, including 31 collegiate starts, Fox is 26-2 all-time with a 2.44 ERA in 214.1 innings. He's come through with big outings in each of the team's last two games (vs. FIU and FAU), allowing just one earned run and holding the opponents to a composite .195 batting average while striking out seven in a combined 11.1 innings... On April 4 Fox suffered the first loss of his collegiate career, but he bounced back a week later to win at UAB. Pitching is only part of the story, however. Fox is a versatile enough athlete to make additional appearances either as a first baseman, designated hitter or pinch hitter (against right-handed pitching).
Kevin McCanna is also a veteran with 47 appearances in his collegiate career, including 30 starting assignments. With ten Friday night starts this year, McCanna has already faced the best pitchers from Stanford, Arizona, Texas, Middle Tennessee, UTSA, Southern Miss, UAB, Old Dominion, Charlotte and LA Tech. He owns a 2.92 ERA in 77.0 innings of work, and has held opposing batters to a composite .267 average. The Woodlands, Texas, native averages 7.4 strikeouts per 9.0 innings and maintained a 2.7-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Earlier he fanned a career-best 11 batters in a start at WKU. He enters the tournament without having allowed an earned run over his last 18.2 innings.
Glenn Otto has the second-lowest ERA on the staff and his .152 opponents' batting average is the best of any Owl pitcher with at least the same number of innings that Otto has pitched (31.2). The rookie right-hander averages a team-leading 15.4 strikeouts per 9.0 innings, with a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 2.5-to-1. The native of Spring, Texas, fanned a career-high nine in his second career start last week vs. crosstown rival Houston (May 12). He also made a pre-determined 2.0-innings start as part of a "staff day" at Lamar on March 31. Otto's two wins were out of the bullpen in the Saturday game against LA Tech (March 14) and then 10 days later at home against Sam Houston State. His longest outing was 4.1 scoreless frames against Houston Baptist, one of six times for him to pitch at least 3.0 innings. On April 18 against UTSA, Otto struck out a career-best seven in 3.0 shutout innings. After being sidelined most of last season, Jordan Stephens has worked his way back into the top weekend starter's role. Bringing the veteran back into the mix on a slow and predetermined work schedule has paid-off. The redshirt junior from Alvin, Texas, made his seventh start of the season in the opening game of the FAU series (May 8) and earned the C-USA Pitcher of the Week honors. At FAU he fired 6.2 shutout innings, scattering three hits and a walk with one hit batsman. He tied a season-high with eight strikeouts and held all opposing hitters to a composite .143 batting average. Against first place foe Middle Tennessee (April 3), he had eight strikeouts in 6.0 shutout innings and was named the C-USA co-Pitcher of the Week. So far in 49.0 innings Stephens has held all hitters to a composite .222 batting average with 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio is 4.5-to-1. A start in the tournament would be the 37th of his collegiate career. He's now at 218 strikeouts for his career.
Seven Owls Earn All-Conference Honors
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... 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... 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.
IRVING, Texas - Rice seniors John Clay Reeves and Kirby Taylor were both named to the 2015 C-USA Baseball All-Academic Team the league office announced on Monday, May 18... Reeves and Taylor are two of just twelve student-athletes the league recognized Monday for balancing elite play on the field with academic success. The Rice duo earned academic recognition just two days after helping lead the baseball program to its 20th-straight conference championship (winning the 2015 C-USA title outright for a second-straight year)... 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. The Bellaire, Texas, native was also recently named to the CoSIDA District VII All-Academic First Team, which makes him eligible to earn Academic All-America (to be announced later in the season)... Reeves is a back-to-back selection to the league's All-Academic squad. 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., maintained a 3.33 grade point average as a sport management major.
Previous Outing: Owls Sweep Double-Header Saturday From FIU
HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team defeated visiting FIU 3-2 in the first game of Saturday's double-header at Reckling Park to clinch the 2015 C-USA regular season title outright. The Owls won the second game of the seven-inning twin-bill 7-4, wrapping-up a long day of baseball with firm possession of the program's 20th-consecutive conference championship spanning three different leagues dating back to 1996... With the outcome of other league games from Friday night (May 15) already giving Rice at least a share of the C-USA regular season championship, as well as the No. 1 seed of the upcoming league tournament, all that was left for the Owls on Saturday was to try and win the title outright. For that, the Blue & Gray needed to win only one of the double-header games. Rice could then play in the upcoming league tournament without sharing the title, or having to rely on another team's help, or perhaps some tricky tie-breaking formula... On Saturday Rice needed to win one. In the tradition of the baseball program has come to enjoy under head coach Wayne Graham, the Owls won both games... In game one Rice jumped on the scoreboard for a pair of runs on three hits and a sacrifice fly. Ford Stainback singled and scored on a base-hit through the right side by Connor Teykl. Charlie Warren singled and scored from third on Tristan Gray's sac fly for a 2-0 advantage... The Owls added another score in the fourth. Grayson Lewis drew a leadoff walk and hustled to third on Hunter Kopycinski's single to right. Lewis dashed home as FIU had trouble with a short grounder that extended the margin to 3-0... Rice starting pitcher Kevin McCanna meanwhile was sound and solid, scattering four hits and a walk over 5.0 innings (of a 7.0 inning game). The junior right-hander surrendered an unearned run in the top of the fifth as FIU's Julius Gaines went to third on a base hit, and alertly took an extra 90 feet after the Owls made a fielding error. The Panthers continued fight and pulled to within one run, 3-2, with another score in the sixth off the Owls' bullpen. FIU then put the tying run in scoring position in the seventh, but Rice reliever Matt Ditman ended the threat to preserve the victory with his team-leading tenth save of the season... With the outright title secured, game two initially looked like it might turn into a Rice run-away win. The Owls drew a base-loaded walk to take a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The Blue and Gray then erupted for six big runs in the fourth on five hits and a pair of walks. The big blows were a bases-loaded single up the middle by senior John Clay Reeves to score two, and a two-out triple to the gap in right center by Gray to score two more... Up 7-0 seemed like an excess of insurance. Rice junior left-hander Blake Fox was on mound with 5.0 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out four. The Panthers battled back though for four runs off the bullpen in the sixth. A leadoff walk, two singles and three-run homer by Josh Anderson cut the margin to 7-4. Rice retired FIU three-up, three-down, in the seventh to close out the sweep of the day's action.
FIU Déjà Vu
Rice opens the tournament vs. FIU after having just completed a three-game weekend series against the same Panthers team to close out the C-USA regular season (May 14-16). This has not been a common occurrence for Rice. There have been only two other times since 1984 when Rice baseball turned-around and played the same team in the very first game of its conference tournament after having ended its regular season league schedule against that same team. It's happened to Rice in 1984, and most-recently in 1994, when the Owls were in the old Southwest Conference. On both those occasions, however, Rice managed to play a few non-conference games between its final game of the SWC schedule to its opening game in that league's postseason tournament. In 1994, the Owls ended the SWC slate with Texas Tech on April 23, then played four other non-conference games over a span of almost two weeks before meeting the Red Raiders in the opener of the conference tourney on May 12. It was nearly the same situation in 1984. Rice closed out the SWC slate with Texas A&M on April 28, and played four non-league games before facing the Aggies in game one of the tournament on May 11.
Rice At The C-USA Championship
Rice has had its share of success playing in the annual C-USA Championship. The Owls have won it six-of-nine times and were second in one other year. Here's a closer look at the Blue & Gray's C-USA tourney history. (Year, Finish, Record)
2006, 1st, 4-0 2011, 1st, 3-1
2007, 1st, 4-1 2012, ---, 1-2
2008, ---, 0-2 2013, 1st, 4-0
2009, 1st, 4-0 2014, 1st, 4-1
2010, 2nd, 3-1
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 191-61 (.758).
Conference Titles Streak Now At 20-Straight
Rice has 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 ---
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
Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice's 2015 W-L records while wearing the various uniforms is as follows: 9-2 in the white `birds' top
8-3 in all-white,
10-4 in blue tops with pinstripe pants,
6-4 in the gray `birds' top
2-4 in all-gray,
0-1 in the home alternate (`Old English R')
The Red-Hot Hunter
When John Clay Reeves was sidelined recently, junior reserve catcher Hunter Kopycinski made the most of his new playing time and it's been hard to keep him out of the lineup. Kopycinski enters the week on a 25-for-65 (.385) pace with two doubles, 11 RBI and 14 runs scored. In addition to a sac bunt and sac fly during the hot streak, he also has more walks (5) than strikeouts (4) for a .438 on-base average.
Matt `The Man' Ditman
Junior reliever Matt Ditman notched another save last weekend vs. FIU. The right-hander is now at 19 saves for his collegiate career for the second-highest total in school history. The Rice career record for saves is 27 by Cole St.Clair (2005-2008). Ditman enters the week with a 2.61 ERA in 51.2 innings, and holding opponents to a composite .212 batting average.
Stainback Continues Career Climb In Record Books
Senior second baseman Ford Stainback enters the week with 858 at bats in his collegiate career, the fifth-highest total in school history. He now needs 19 more at bats to tie Diego Seastrunk (877 at bats from 2007-2010) for No. 4 all-time. Stainback has also played in 225 games during his collegiate career, the fifth-highest total in school history. He needs nine more games to tie Eric Arnold (234 games from 1999-2002) for No. 4 all-time.
Seven Owls Named To All-Silver Glove Series Team
One of the distinctive features of the Rice-Houston series is the naming of the annual All-Silver Glove team. This year seven Owls claimed spots on the all-series team. The 2015 All-Silver Glove team was Chris Iriart (UH), Corey Julks (UH), Grayson Lewis (Rice), Austin Orewiler (Rice), Glenn Otto (Rice), Seth Romero (UH), Ford Stainback (Rice), Kirby Taylor (Rice), Connor Teykl (Rice), Charlie Warren (Rice), MVP -- Seth Romero (UH).
Many Happy Returns
Jordan Stephens is one Owl who is making a comeback this season after being sidelined for more than a year. Another pitcher on the comeback trail is freshman redshirt-transfer Josh Pettitte. Pettitte has been impressive while slowly building up innings and outings. In 19.0 innings from 14 appearances, Pettitte owns a 6.16 ERA while holding opponents to a .250 batting average. He averages 12.8 strikeouts per 9.0 innings with a 2.5-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
Nine (9) Televised Games In Regular Season
The people in the business of selecting games for television broadcasts have a good idea of the teams the public want to see. In 2015 nine Rice regular season games were picked-up for a TV broadcast, and that number could still grow with a possible TV appearance in the championship final of the C-USA Tournament in late May. Here is Rice's "starting nine" games on TV: Feb. 20 (Fri.) at Arizona, PAC-12 Network;
Feb. 21 (Sat.) at Arizona, PAC-12 Network
Feb. 22 (Sun.) at Arizona, PAC-12 Network
Mar. 3 (Tues.) at TCU, FOXSSW+
Mar. 27 (Fri.) vs. Southern Miss, FOX Sports 2;
Apr. 18 (Sat.) vs. UTSA, ASN
Apr. 26 (Sun.) at Western Kentucky, ASN
May 9 (Sat.) at Florida Atlantic, ASN
May 16 (Sat.) vs. FIU, FOX Sports Net
Berkman To Be Inducted Into College Baseball Hall of Fame
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Former Rice Owl great Lance Berkman has been selected for induction into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame later this summer, the College Baseball Foundation announced March 4 from its headquarters in Lubbock, Texas... Joining Berkman in the 2015 College Baseball Hall of Fame induction class are Frank Viola, a Cy Young Award winner, World Series MVP and three-time major league all-star who led St. John's to the 1980 College World Series; Joe Arnold, a two-time NJCAA All-American pitcher at Miami-Dade who also earned Most Valuable Player honors at the 1966 NJCAA World Series; Larry Hays, who is one of only eight coaches at any level of college baseball with 1,500 wins; Al Holland, a ten-year major league pitcher and collegiate star at North Carolina A&T; Bill Holowaty, the third-winningest coach in NCAA Division III history; Mike Kelly, who was the consensus national player of the year in 1990 and winner of the 1991 Golden Spikes Award; and Rick Reichardt, who won the first recognized collegiate national player of the year award in 1964. The induction ceremony is set for June 29, in Lubbock... Before he became a six-time major league all-star and 2011 World Series champion, Berkman amassed 67 home runs, 272 RBI and a .385 batting average in his collegiate career at Rice (1995-97). He led the Owls to the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1995, and first College World Series appearance in 1997, when he was named the National Player of the Year and was unanimous All-America selection. That season he won the Western Athletic Conference triple crown with a .431 average, 41 homers and 134 RBI, as well as being the league leader in runs (109) and hits (110). The New Braunfels, Texas, native was a first-round MLB draft pick in 1997 (16th player selected overall) by the Houston Astros, who eventually led that franchise to its first World Series appearance in 2005... "This class features players and coaches with some incredible superlatives," said Mike Gustafson, executive director of the College Baseball Hall of Fame. "There are some unique and outstanding accomplishments by the individuals in this class. Our voting committees consists of longtime college baseball media members, active and former coaches, retired umpires, past inductees, college baseball historians and in several cases they are also former players," Gustafson added. "I commend them on another outstanding job."... Berkman joins Owl head coach Wayne Graham in National College Baseball Hall of Fame. Coach Graham was inducted in the 2012 class... "I can't imagine a more deserving player for this honor than Lance," coach Graham said. "He had one of the greatest years in the history of college baseball (in 1997) to help get us to Omaha. He is one of the prime players who elevated our program in so many ways. Congratulations to Lance, and all the new inductees."... Tickets for the 2015 induction will be available in May on the Hall of Fame's website at www.collegebaseballhall.org... For more information, contact Mike Gustafson, National College Baseball Hall of Fame president and CEO, at email@example.com.
Did You Know?
There have been plenty of players who have hit 40 home runs in a major league season, but just four Division I players who have hit 40 homers in the significantly shorter collegiate season. Lance Berkman is the only person on both these lists. He clubbed 41 round-trippers at Rice in 1997, and then had two 40-plus homer seasons with the Houston Astros - in 2002 (42 HR) and 2006 (45 HR).
20-Straight 40-Win Seasons
Rice has clinched 20-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 19 of the last 20 years.
National Postseason Streak At 20-Straight
Rice baseball's 20-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the nation's fourth-longest active streak. In 2014 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 42nd-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (37) and Cal State Fullerton (23). Rice's 20-straight NCAA Tournament bids is the sixth-longest postseason streak in Division I baseball history.
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 16 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999 to 2014:
Team Years Wins Loses Ties PCT
Florida State 16 791 278 1 .740
Rice 16 762 280 0 .731
North Carolina 16 729 301 1 .708
South Carolina 16 748 312 0 .706
Cal St. Fullerton 16 700 299 0 .701
Texas 16 717 314 1 .695
Arizona State 16 637 289 2 .688
LSU 16 708 321 6 .687
Coastal Carolina 16 675 310 0 .685
Miami (Fla.) 16 682 313 3 .685
Oral Roberts 16 654 307 0 .681
Georgia Tech 16 676 329 1 .672
Wichita State 16 703 357 0 .663
Virginia 16 640 331 3 .659
Stanford 16 635 340 2 .651
Clemson 16 677 363 1 .651
Nebraska 16 632 342 2 .649
East Carolina 16 619 347 3 .640
Tulane 16 623 352 2 .639
Southern 16 474 272 0 .635
Florida Atlantic 16 609 351 1 .634
C. of Charleston 16 600 346 1 .634
Oregon State 16 585 338 0 .634
Oklahoma State 16 613 355 0 .633
TCU 16 616 360 0 .631
Kent State 16 600 351 0 .631
Florida 16 633 373 2 .629
Notre Dame 16 596 353 5 .627
Mississippi 16 621 376 1 .623
Louisville 16 607 368 1 .622
Texas A&M 16 619 378 3 .621
Ohio State 16 587 359 1 .620
Vanderbilt 16 607 374 0 .619
UL-Lafayette 16 604 372 1 .619
Owls Ink Eight In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program has signed eleven high school standouts in the early period who will join the team for the 2016 season. The list of newest Owls includes: Dominic DiCaprio, Zachary Esquivel, Kendal Jefferies, Gavin Johnson, Jackson Parthasarathy, Jay Proctor, Braden Rollins, Brent Schwarz, Jacob Simon, Cody Staab, and Lucas Wakamatsu. The group consists of four pitchers, two catchers, two infielders, an outfielder and two 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. Eight are from Texas and two are from the greater Houston area.