Owls No. 1 Seed In C-USA Championship This Week

May 21, 2013

May 19, 2013

PDF of Rice's latest pregame release
Championship Home Page
Purchase Tickets On-line
Listen to all Rice games via the Internet audio home page

May 22 (Wed.) 7 pm; Rice vs. UAB
Watch the game on the web by upgrading to the C-USA Digital Network package
GameTracker (activates at game time)

May 23 (Thurs.) 7 pm; Rice vs. UCF
Watch the game on the web by upgrading to the C-USA Digital Network package
GameTracker (activates at game time)

May 25 (Sat.) 11 am; Rice vs. Memphis
Watch the game on the web by upgrading to the C-USA Digital Network package
GameTracker (activates at game time)

May 26 (Sun.) 1 pm; Championship Final (between pool play winners)
GameTracker (activates at game time)
No webcast this game as Championship Final is televised by CBS Sports Network.

Owls No. 1 Seed As Host Of C-USA BaseballThe Rice baseball team, 37-17 overall and ranked No. 19 in the nation in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) poll, is the No. 1 seed of the 2013 Conference USA Championship this Wednesday through Sunday (May 22-26). The Championship will be held at the Owls' Reckling Park and features the top eight teams in pod play format. The winner of the Championship earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins May 31 at 16 regional sites across the country.



NCAA Bid Is On The Line
The winner of the Championship earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins next week at 16 regional sites across the country.

Time For Pod Play
The league has returned to a pod play format for the second time in as many years. There are again two four-team groups playing a set schedule of games for four days. There is no double-elimination in pool play, and each team gets one off day before Sunday's Championship Final. The team's with the best record from each pool advances to the Final... Rice meets eighth-seed UAB (22-34 overall, 7-17 C-USA) on Wednesday at 7 pm. The Owls then face five-seed UCF (29-27, 13-11) on Thursday at 7 pm. Rice's pool play concludes with an 11 am game against fourth-seed Memphis (33-23, 14-10) on Saturday... The Championship Final of the 18th annual tournament will be one game on Sunday beginning at 1 pm. The Championship Final will be broadcast live by Fox Sports Network.

Makeup of the Pods and Schedule of Play

Pod 1 (Seeds 1, 4 5, and 8)					Pod 2 (Seeds 2, 3 6, and 7)
Rice vs. Memphis, UCF and UAB				Southern Miss vs. East Carolina, Houston and Tulane
Memphis vs. Rice, UCF and UAB				East Carolina vs. Southern Miss, Houston and Tulane
UCF vs. Rice, Memphis and UAB				Houston vs. Southern Miss, East Carolina and Tulane
UAB vs. Rice, Memphis and UCF				Tulane vs. Southern Miss, East Carolina and Houston

Game Schedule
Wednesday, May 22
Game 1 (5) UCF vs. (4) Memphis 11 am
Game 2 (7) Tulane vs. (2) Southern Miss 3 pm
Game 3 (8) UAB vs. (1) Rice 7 pm

Thursday, May 23
Game 4 (6) Houston vs. (3) East Carolina 11 am
Game 5 (8) UAB vs. (4) Memphis 3 pm
Game 6 (5) UCF vs. (1) Rice 7 pm

Friday, May 24
Game 7 (7) Tulane vs. (3) East Carolina 11 am
Game 8 (6) Houston vs. (2) Southern Miss 3 pm
Game 9 (8) UAB vs. (5) UCF 7 pm

Saturday, May 25
Game 10 (4) Memphis vs. (1) Rice 11 am
Game 11 (7) Tulane vs. (6) Houston 3 pm
Game 12 (3) East Carolina vs. (2) Southern Miss 7 pm

Sunday, May 26 (televised by CBS Sports Network)
Championship Game 1:00p

All Times Central

Each game of the championship from Wednesday through Saturday will be streamed live on the C-USA Digital Network. The championship game of the tournament on Sunday, May 26 will be televised live by CBS Sports Network, beginning at 1 p.m. CDT. The tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship. UAB is the defending tournament champion.

Rice At The C-USA Championship
Rice has had success in playing in the annual C-USA Championship. The Owls have won it four-of-eight times and were second one other time. Here's a closer look at the Owls' C-USA tourney history. (Year, Finish, Record)
2006, 1st, 4-0    2010, 2nd, 3-1
2007, 1st, 4-1    2011, 1st, 3-1
2008, ---, 0-2    2012, ---, 1-2
2009, 1st, 4-0

Conference Titles Streak Reaches 18-Straight
Rice has now 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 share the 2013 regular season title with co-champion Southern Miss. Last week Rice had to sweep Marshall and get some help from other teams to welcome the program's 18th championship to the family.

National Rankings Update • Owls Are Moving Up
The Owls are represented in a host of different polls across the country. Here's a closer look at the latest national rankings:
Poll     This Week     Last Week
College Sports Madness     tba    16
NCBWA     19    20
USA Today/ESPN     20    22
Collegiate Baseball Magazine     26    --
Baseball America     --    --
PerfectGame.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 the games, home or away, can now listen to the Rice broadcast at the stadium where the team plays via an FM proximity transmitter. The FM frequency for the in-stadium broadcasts at Reckling Park is 99.7 FM. Proximity broadcasts for away games will be announced prior to that game. J.P. Heath returns as the voice of the Owls this season. For some selected home games he will be joined in the Rice broadcast booth by either 2003 national champion letterman Enrique Cruz or "Jimmy Baseball," aka Owl letterman and new R Association Director Jimmy Comerota.

Watch The C-USA Games On OwlVision All Access
Rice's C-USA Championship 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.

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.

97th 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 2013 season is, however, only the Owls' 97th 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 1,897 - 1,506 - 9.

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 22nd season at Rice. The 2013 campaign marks his 33rd year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 990-397 with the Owls (594-145 at home, 305-195 in road games and 91-57 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .714, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .714 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 116 games in a single year... Graham's record vs. Rice's pod opponents is as follows: 19-9 vs. UAB (11-2 home, 7-5 road, 1-2 neutral); 21-9 vs. UCF (9-6 home, 9-3 road, 3-0 neutral); 21-9 vs. Memphis (9-4 home, 9-3 road, 3-2 neutral); Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2012, making 18-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. 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 and `11... 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; eighth year), Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; second year) and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; first year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Hallmark coaches at first base.

1,564 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 990 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,564 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall collegiate record is 1,564-510 in a 32-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Six-Straight Games at Reckling Park
With three guaranteed games in the tournament, and three home games against Marshall to close out the regular season last weekend, Rice has a total of six-straight games at Reckling Park through May 25. Six-straight is Rice's second-longest stretch of games at Reckling Park all season. From March 12-20 the Owls had seven in a row at Reckling Park where the team built some momentum for a 7-0 record.

Probable Rice Pitchers
Wayne Graham announced the Owls' probable starting pitching rotation for the C-USA Championship as the right-handed trio of junior Austin Kubitza (7-4, 2.11), sophomore Jordan Stephens (6-4, 2.86), and junior John Simms (7-3, 2.48).
Austin Kubitza was named a second team 2013 preseason All-America selection by the National College Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). This year Kubitza has posted new career highs in wins and strikeouts (110), and he's held opposing hitters to a career-best .192 batting average for 85.1 innings. He has posted some sensational outings, such as: against No. 1 North Carolina (1 ER, 6.2 IP, 9K in a no-decision), No. 4 Stanford on Opening Day (0 R, 6.0 IP, 12K), at East Carolina (0 R, 7.1 IP, 10K), at crosstown rival Houston (0 R, 7.0 IP, 10K), FIU on the road (2 ER in 6.1 IP, 11K) and at Hawaii (0 R, 7.0 IP, 13K). In his most-recent outing against Marshall on May 16, the Colleyville, Tex., native worked a season-long 8.0 innings where he allowed two runs on eight hits while striking out seven. Kubitza has struck out 10 or more in a game five times in his 14 starts. He averages 11.6 strikeouts and 6.3 hits allowed per 9.0 innings. Now in the third year of his collegiate career, Kubitza has maintained a 2.37 Rice ERA and he has fanned 285 batters in 265.2 collegiate innings.
• Sophomore Jordan Stephens has been sound and solid as a member of the Owls' weekend rotation. The Alvin, Tex., native is 6-4 with a 2.86 ERA. His overall totals include four spot-relief appearances in midweek games, but he has been effective in either role. In his 13 starts Stephens has averaged more than 6.2 innings per outing and held opponents to a composite .231 batting average. In his second start of the season at Hawaii (Feb. 23) he logged the best game of his young Rice career. At Hawaii he pitched the staff's first complete as an Owl, holding the Rainbows to just one run (which was unearned) on four hits while striking out ten - all on the road. On May 4 at UAB Stephens fanned a carrer-high 11 Blazer hitters in just 7.2 innings. He averages 7.5 strikeouts per 9.0 innings and has maintained a 3.2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. In his inaugural season of Division I baseball in 2012, Stephens caught the coaches' attention in the fall practices and earned the No. 3 starting spot to begin the year. He went on to pitch in 14 games overall and finish fourth on the team with eight starts.
 • A start for John Simms would be his 13th of the season. The junior from The Woodlands, Tex., has held all opposing hitters to a composite .222 batting average with a steady 8.0 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. If you are only as good as your recent appearances, Simms is still flying pretty high. In back-to-back starts against Memphis (May 12) and Marshall (May 18) he did not allow any runs on a combined eight hits in 13.2 total innings. He fired the first complete game of his collegiate career, that featured a career-high 12 strikeouts, in the March 12 midweek start against Louisiana Tech. He allowed one run in a predetermined 5.0 innings against Stephen F. Austin, and then had eight strikeouts while pitching into the seventh in the first C-USA weekend at Southern Miss. Simms started and won in the opening series of the season against Stanford, as well as the series finale at Hawaii (Feb. 25). The right-hander has been the losing pitcher at Rice just five times in a staff-high 68 appearances dating back to the spring of 2011.
• UAB announced its Wednesday night starter as junior right-hander Chase Mallard (2-3, 3.38).
• UCF reported its Thursday night starter will be announced later.
• Memphis announced its Saturday starter vs. Rice as junior left-hander Erik Schoenrock (7-3, 2.51).

Solid In C-USA Regular Season Action
Since its first Conference USA baseball campaign in the spring of 2006, Rice's regular-season record in C-USA league games is 148-46 (.763).

Here's Who's Hot
Over the last 11 games sophomore shortstop Ford Stainback is 18-for-his-last-45 (.400) with a double, eight runs scored, five RBI, two sacrifice bunts and a stolen base. He also has drawn three walks for a .438 on-base percentage... Freshman center fielder Leon Byrd is at the same .400 pace over the last six games (6-for-15). He has been hit by a pitch, drawn two walks and had a sacrifice bunt for a .571 on-base percentage. Byrd also has five runs scored in the six-game stretch... In the last two games against Marshall senior Christian Stringer went a combined 6-for-9 (667), thanks to a season-best four-hit game on Saturday. He's also drawn two walks (.727 on-base percentage) had a triple, and scored four times... Freshman Blake Fox responded to back-to-back starts in the final two games of the Marshall series by going a combined 3-for-7 (.429) with a pair of RBI... Senior right fielder Michael Ratterree has come back to earth from his recent super-hot hitting spree, but only slightly. In the last four games Ratterree is 5-for-13 (.385) with a home run, five runs scored, four RBI, four walks and two steals.

Previous Outing: Owls Complete Sweep of Marshall Saturday, 6-0
HOUSTON - A second-straight shutout pitching performance, and Christian Stringer's fifth-inning two-run triple in his four-hit Senior Day game, gave the Rice baseball team a lead it would not relinquish in a 6-0 Conference USA win over visiting Marshall to complete a weekend series sweep of the Thundering Herd. With the victory Rice won the conference's regular season championship on the last day of league play and extended its streak of winning league championships to 18-straight years dating back to 1996...Rice improved its record to 37-17 overall. The Owls and Southern Miss both finished with identical 15-9 C-USA records. In the head-to-head series between the two teams back on the opening weekend of league play (March 22-24), Rice won the best-of-three set two-games-to one. That head-to-head advantage clinched Rice's spot as the No. 1 seed at the upcoming C-USA Championship Tournament, scheduled to get underway on Wednesday (May 22) at the Owls' home at Reckling Park. The tourney features four days of pool play followed by a single Championship Final on Sunday (May 26)... Now in his 22nd season at Rice, and 33rd season overall as collegiate head coach, Wayne Graham know a little something about streaks in the game of baseball. Streaks of winning championships cannot be taken for granted... "This was the hardest one of all," coach Graham said. "It's not so much we don't have a very good team. I think we do. It seems like everybody can beat you nowadays."... Make no mistake, with Rice and Southern Miss deadlocked in the standings the Blue & Gray had to defeat Marshall Saturday to guarantee the consecutive conference championship streak would reach 18-straight. Stringer and Owl hitters broke-through in the middle innings by scoring a total of six runs over four-straight frames... Rice starting pitcher John Simms and the defense came through with a similar big-time performance on the other side. The Thundering Herd was hungry, and proceeded to load the bases with one out in the top of the second inning. Simms got a strikeout and tricky ground ball up the middle where Stringer didn't have enough time to get the final out by stepping on second for the force-play. He did though make a rocket throw to first base for the final out that saved a run... Simms then proceeded to retire nine of the next ten he faced to get through 5.0 scoreless innings. His solution for walking the first Marshall hitter the Owls had allowed since the very first batter of the entire weekend series back on Thursday night was to pick him off of base where he was eventually caught in a rundown... The Owls took the lead in the bottom of the same frame. Freshman Leon Byrd was hit by a pitch and Ford Stainback punched a bouncing base hit through into right field. Stringer followed with a triple to the wall in right field to score both men, but the team wasn't quite finished. Stringer dashed home on Keenan Cook's sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead... In the bottom of the sixth Michael Aquino drew a one-out walk, stole second base and hustled third on a wild pitch. She scored on a text-book bunt for a base hit by Byrd that made it 4-0... Stringer led off the seventh with his season-high fourth hit of the day. He scored after one-out singles by Shane Hoelscher and Michael Ratterree. The Owls stretched the margin to 6-0 with its final run in the bottom of the eighth. Byrd led off with a double to right and scored on a base hit of the middle by Stainback... The 6-0 lead was more than enough for Simms and sophomore reliever Zech Lemond, who was the game's finishing pitcher. Simms improved to 7-3 on the season by scattering three singles and two walks while striking out four in 7.0 innings. Lemond kept the shutout intact with three strikeouts in the final two innings... "We're pitching and playing well on defense," coach Graham added. "It's hard to beat you if you don't give up any runs."... Not only was the shutout Rice's second-straight of the weekend against Marshall, it established a new school record of 11 shutouts in a single season. The 11 shutouts eclipsed the previous school record of ten set in 2003, and tied again the next year in 2004.

The Long Haul
Rice's 2-0 win in 17 innings at Hawaii on February 22 is tied for the third-longest game in C-USA history.  It was the most innings played since Cincinnati and Kentucky played 17 in 1999.  Here's a look at the longest contests in the league by the number of innings:
22.0    Houston vs. Baylor    2-21-99
21.0    Memphis vs. Evansville    3-7-99
17.0    Cincinnati vs. Kentucky    5-5-99
17.0    Rice vs. Hawaii    2-22-13
16.0    UCF vs. Monmouth    3-9-08
16.0    Houston vs. Memphis    4-23-06
16.0    Cincinnati vs. USF    4-22-00

Six FOX Games This Season
HOUSTON - Six Rice games this season were FOX television games, either on Fox College Sports of Fox Sports Net. Rice's six FOX games were:
March 28 (Thur.) Fox Sports Net; Rice def. Tulane 4-2
April 12 (Fri.) Fox College Sports; UCF def. Rice 5-1
April 16 (Tue.) Fox College Sports; Rice def. Texas Tech 11-2
April 20 (Sat.) Fox Sports Net; Rice def. Houston 4-0
May 10 (Fri.) Fox College Sports; Memphis def. Rice 6-3
May 16 (Thur.) Fox College Sports; Rice def. Marshall 6-3
The Owls had a number of its games on TV this season. All three games from the Astros Foundation Classic at Minute Maid Park were televised taped-delayed. In February three of the Owls' games played at Hawaii were televised lived throughout the 50th state.

Rice 14th In Average Home Attendance
Through 28 home games Rice has averaged more than 3,200 fans at Reckling Park. The Owls are 14th in the nation in average home attendance. Here are the latest national attendance leaders (by home average).
1. LSU 10,885
2. Arkansas 8,335
3. Ole Miss 7,996
4. South Carolina 7,436
5. Mississippi State 7,294
6. Texas 5,793
7. Clemson 4,751
8. Florida State 4,654
9. Texas A&M 4,523
10. Creighton 4,041
11. TCU 3,570
12. Florida 3,511
13. Hawaii 3,357
14. Rice 3,287

Rice Also 17th In Total Home Attendance
Rice baseball has drawn more than 922,000 fans for 28 home games. That's also the 17th highest attendance total in the country.

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion dynamo out there, Rice is 16-7 in its all-white uniforms, 4-3 in the pinstripes, 7-5 in all-gray, 5-1 in blue tops with white pants and 5-1 in blue tops with gray pants.

Postseason Streak At 18-Straight, Looking For 19
The Rice baseball program's 18-straight appearances in the NCAA Baseball Championship is the fourth-longest active streak in the country. Miami (Fla.) has made the field for the 40 consecutive years, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (35) and Cal State Fullerton (21). Rice's 18-straight NCAA Tournament appearances is the sixth-longest national postseason streak in Division I history.

18-Straight 40-Win Seasons
Rice has clinched 18-straight seasons with at least 40 wins. `Forty' wins actually short-changes the feat a little. The Owls have secured at least 41 wins in 17 of the last 18 years.

The Kid's Got An Arm
Not only did junior left fielder Keenan Cook have a steady .300-plus year at the plate (not to mention an eye-opening .352 C-USA average in league-only games) he has had a productive year on the defensive side as well. Cook ranks among the NCAA national leaders in outfield assists - earned by throwing out an opposing runner on the bases (including relay throws). Here is the most-recent NCAA leaders for out field assists.
2013 Outfield Assists        
Name    School    OF Assists
Dane Opel    Missouri    13
Jeff Kremer    Duke    9
Seth Miller    Florida State    9
Michael Bozarth    Saint Louis    9
Trever Allen    Arizona State    8
Steven Duggar    Clemson    8
Chad Christensen    Nebraska    8
Mike Tauchman    Bradley    8
Alex Bast    Air Force    7
Keenan Cook    Rice    7
Nathan Lukes    Sacramento State    7
Tyler Marincov    North Florida    7
Jacob May    Coastal Carolina    7
JJ Nazzaro    Gardner-Webb    7
Adam Nelubowich    Washington State    7

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 14 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999 to 2012. These totals do NOT include games played in 2013:
Team    Wins-Loses-Ties (Pct.)
Florida State    701-244-1 (.742)
Rice    676-240-0 (.738)
Coastal Carolina    615-253-0 (.709)
North Carolina    635-262-1 (.708)
Oral Roberts    599-249-0 (.706)
Texas    644-269-1 (.705)
South Carolina    661-281-0 (.702)
Arizona State    567-244-1 (.699)
Cal State Fullerton    615-265-0 (.699)
Miami    601-269-3 (.690)
Wichita State    633-301-0 (.678)
Georgia Tech    589-281-1 (.677)
LSU    605-294-5 (.672)
Stanford    568-292-2 (.660)
Tulane    570-295-2 (.659)
Nebraska    562-291-2 (.658)
Clemson    601-316-1 (.655)
East Carolina    555-295-1 (.653)
Notre Dame    542-298-5 (.644)
Florida    564-320-2 (.638)

Owls In "The Show" This Season
The Owls' list of major league players for 2013 includes Lance Berkman (Rangers), Tony Cingrani (Reds), Philip Humber (Astros), Paul Janish (Braves), Lucas Luetge (Mariners) and Jeff Niemann (Rays), Anthony Rendon (Nationals) and Joe Savery (Phillies).



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