C-USA Baseball Tournament Begins Wednesday

May 23, 2016

E-mail baseball SID John Sullivan
C-USA Championship Headquarters Page
Printable C-USA Championship Bracket
LISTEN online
PDF of Rice's latest pregame release

May 25 (Wed.) 9 am; #5 LA Tech vs. # 4 Rice
Watch the game on the web. Note: Fans must purchase the C-USA Digital Upgrade For This Feature
GameTracker (activates at game time)

May 26 (Thurs.) opponent & links tba

The Rice baseball team, 32-20 overall and rated as high as No. 24 in the nation in the latest D1Baseball rankings, is the No. 4 seed of the 2016 Conference USA Championship beginning this Wednesday through Sunday (May 25-29) 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 next week at 16 regional sites across the country.

Rice Meets LA Tech In C-USA's Opening Game
Rice meets No. 5 seed Louisiana Tech (37-16 overall, 19-11 C-USA) on Wednesday at 9 am. The Owls then face either one-seed Florida Atlantic (37-15, 21-8) or eight seed Charlotte (23-30, 12-17) on Thursday at either 9 am (loser's bracket) or 4 pm (winner's bracket). The Championship Final of the 21st annual tournament will be just one game on Sunday beginning at noon. That contest is scheduled for a live telecast by CBS Sports Network.

Play-By-Play Audio 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 eighth season as the regular voice of the Owls.

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. 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). Information about the service and subscription prices are available at RiceOwls.com.

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.

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, and the baseball schedule page.

National Rankings Update • Owls Ranked In Two National Polls
Here's a closer look at some of the national rankings, as well as Rice's spot in the same poll from last week:
Organization             Current    Previous
D1Baseball.com              24         15
Baseball America            25         16
College Baseball Central    --         19
USA Today/ESPN              --         21
PerfectGame.com             --         22
Collegiate Baseball         --         24
NCBWA                       --         28

NCAA RPI at No. 32
If you have disdain for the politics of the various baseball polls and prefer the cold, hard math of the NCAA's official Rating Power Index (RPI), then consider that Rice has the No. 32 RPI in the nation heading into the weekend. Rice is among four C-USA schools ranked in the current RPI top 40.

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 25th season at Rice. The 2016 campaign marks his 37th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,108-462 with the Owls (662-171 at home, 348-221 on the road and 98-70 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .706, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .706 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 114 games in a single year... Graham is 34-5 vs. LA Tech, 8-1 vs. Florida Atlantic, and 6-1 vs. Charlotte... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2015, making 21-straight seasons for Rice to earn an NCAA appearance. The Blue & Gray has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13-14-15. 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 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 head 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; 11th year), Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; fifth year) and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; fourth year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Shepherd coaches at first.

1,683 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,108 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,683 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,683-575 in a 35-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Possible Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham will officially announce Rice's starting pitchers for the C-USA Championship at a later time. Here's an updated look at last week's starting pitchers for the road series at LA Tech (May 19-21).
• Veteran Jon Duplantier (7-5, 2.88 ERA) has been sound and solid in his 14 starts this season, working at least 6.0 innings in all but one outing for a team-leading total of 97.0 frames. The Katy, Texas, native averages an eye-opening 11.7 strikeouts per 9.0 innings with a 3.5-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He's faced four nationally-ranked teams in Arizona, Arkansas, East Carolina and Southern Miss - was sensational vs. UCF (March 4), and then even better against C-USA foe Old Dominion (March 25). Against UCF Duplantier allowed just one hit in 8.0 innings while striking out 14. He was named both the C-USA Pitcher of the Week and National Pitcher of the Week (according to CollegeSportsMadness.com). He then picked up the league pitching honor a second time for his first complete game, a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts and no earned runs against ODU. He notched his sixth game with double-digit strikeouts vs. eventual conference champ FAU (May 13), and the weekend before fired 8.1 shutout innings at FIU (May 6). For the year he's held opposing hitters to an austere .195 composite batting average. No matter if the 6-foot-4 right-hander is pitching at home, away, or at a neutral site, there are always a host of MLB scouts and cross-checkers tracking his every pitch.
When he's not playing first base...senior Blake Fox has pitched well in his 14 starts. Three weeks ago at FIU (May 7) was the best of his long career, firing a complete game, six-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts to earn C-USA Pitcher of the Week honors. In the opener of the April 16 double-header vs. Western Kentucky the left-hander allowed just two runs in 8.0 innings while recording nine strikeouts. For the full season he has maintained a 2.55 ERA and held opponents to a composite .230 batting average in 6.2 innings per start. In a C-USA appearance at Middle Tennessee he allowed no runs on six singles in 7.0 innings with five strikeouts. A closer look reveals that in 12 of his 14 starts his offensive teammates have supported him with only a .198 composite batting average and just 2.1 runs per game. For his collegiate career, Fox is 30-9 with a 2.48 ERA in 316.0 collegiate innings. The Houston native is the Rice's active leader in career appearances (64), starts (46) and strikeouts (228).
Ricardo Salinas has grown into his role as a weekend starter, particularly the second half of the season. In his last nine starts (all series finales vs. East Carolina and eight other C-USA opponents) the Houston native is among the conference leaders with a 7-1 record, a 1.50 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 60.0 innings. He posted a new career-long outing with a 9.0-inning complete game two-hit shutout vs. UAB (April 10). Earlier he was named the March 14 C-USA Pitcher of the Week with 8.0 shutout frames against No. 16 ranked East Carolina (March 13). Salinas registered a new career-high with nine strikeouts in his March 27 start against Old Dominion. A closer look at his early opponents is also in order. The sophomore right-hander's first start was against national/Pac-12 powerhouse Arizona, followed by a weekend start against nationally-ranked TCU. In his time at Rice, Salinas is 10-4 overall with 17 starts in his collegiate career.

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 210-71 (.747).

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-ten 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    2015,   ---, 0-2

Previous Game: Bulldogs Complete Home Series Sweep Over Rice
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech claimed a 10-5 Conference USA win over the visiting Rice baseball team to close out the regular season schedule for both teams Saturday afternoon (May 21) in Ruston, La... With the win the Bulldogs completed the three-game sweep of the C-USA weekend series. Rice is now 32-20 overall and 19-10 in conference. In Saturday's regular season finale Rice opened the scoring for the first time in the series. Sophomore Dane Myers started the top of the second inning striking out, but still reaching first base as the ball bounded away on the play. He stole second before Dayne Wunderlich drew a two-out walk. Senior Hunter Kopycinski followed with a single into right to score one and put runners at the corners. Charlie Warren then lined a two-out base hit to left-center to plate Wunderlich for a 2-0 Owl advantage... LA Tech sent 10 to the plate for four runs in the bottom of the third and never looked back. The Bulldogs then added two more in the fourth to make it 6-3. Rice had trouble taking care of the baseball in both innings, and went on to finish the contest with a season-high five errors in the field... Three of the first six runs were unearned, but Rice still battled. Ryan Chandler led off the fifth with a walk and Ford Proctor followed by connecting on a 3-2 pitch with a line-drive home run to right field. Proctor's first career round-tripper cut the margin to 6-4... The Bulldogs turned two hits into a run in its half of the fifth. Another run on two hits and a walk in the sixth doubled the margin to four, 8-4. The Blue & Gray scored its final run in the eighth on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Proctor, but two more Tech runs in bottom of the frame finished out the 10-5 final... On the offensive side Rice reached double-digit hits for the 20th time this season. Warren and Kopycinski shared the team lead with three hits. Proctor finished with three RBI, giving the true freshman a team-leading 30 heading into the C-USA Tourney... LA Tech indeed became the first conference team to sweep a three-game C-USA series from the Owls, but the squads are not quite finished in 2016.

Bulldog Déjà Vu
Rice opens the tournament vs. LA Tech after having just completed a three-game weekend series against the same Bulldog team to close out the C-USA regular season (May 19-21). This is the second-straight year for Rice to play a fourth-straight game against the team the Owls closed out the regular season. A year ago Rice finished up the C-USA slate with FIU and then met the Panthers in the opening round of the league tournament a few days later... It has indeed happened two years in a row, but otherwise it is not 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 then again in 1994, both times 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.

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice's 2016 W-L records while wearing the various uniforms is as follows:
11-6 in all-white
8-6 in pinstripes
6-2 in blue tops with pinstripe pants
6-6 in gray `birds' tops
1-0 in blue tops with white pants

Here's Who's Hot
True freshman Ford Proctor extended his hitting streak to 15 games and is 32-for-75 (.427) with six doubles, a triple and home run for a .573 slugging percentage in his last 20 games. The shortstop from Beaumont, Texas, has also maintained a steady .489 on-base average, scored 14 times and stolen three bases in the last 20 games... Junior outfielder Charlie Warren has extended his hitting streak to seven-straight games. Going back a little further Warren is now 19-for-his-last-45 (.422) with six walks for a .490 on-base average. Warren unselfishly also has four sac bunts in the current spree... Sophomore Dane Myers hit safely in every game last week to go 8-for-19 (.427) with two doubles (.526 SLG%). The third baseman also stole two bases, scored twice and drove-in two runs in the four games.

Glenn Otto On Midseason Stopper of the Year Watch List
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Glenn Otto was one of 40 players on the midseason watch list for the annual Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top Division I relief pitcher by National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, the organization announced... Otto was named to the award's preseason watch list in February and has been sensational for the Owls in 2016. The sophomore right-hander has posted eight saves as well as a 6-2 record in 28 appearances. He has maintained a 1.92 ERA in 56.1 innings and held opposing hitter to a combined .195 batting average. Otto averages 9.8 strikeouts per 9.0 innings with a 2.9-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio... A native of Spring, Texas, Otto is one of four Conference USA pitchers on the award's midseason watch list. The SEC led the way with five players on the list while Pac-12 had four and the ACC had three. A total of 20 different conferences were represented... The NCBWA will announce five finalists for the 2016 Stopper of the Year - the Division I national saves leader and four other relief pitching standouts - on Wednesday, June 8, prior to the start of NCAA Super Regional competition. The NCBWA's All-America Committee will select the winner, with this year's recipient to be announced during the 2016 College World Series... The NCBWA, founded in 1962, presents the Dick Howser Trophy to the nation's top player. It also selects All-America Teams for all Divisions, a Division I Freshman All-American team, Division I and III Players of the Week, Division I District Players of the Year and Division III Players of the Year.

Proctor Makes Watch List For Shortstop of the Year Award
LUBBOCK, Texas - Rice true freshman Ford Proctor has been added to the midseason watch list for Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award, presented annually by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame... The Owl rookie has worked his way into 47-consecutive starts at shortstop, and 51 games at short overall, where he is batting a steady .348 with a .438 on-base percentage. Proctor has scored 30 runs, driven-in 30 and is third on the squad with five stolen bases.

Kopy That
He may have had a rough start to the season offensively, but senior catcher Hunter Kopycinski is now 21-for-his-last-86 (.244) with eight walks for a .309 on-base average. Being a catcher is certainly one of baseball's more demanding positions, but Kopycinski isn't exactly sharing the work recently. The Houston native has started 33 of the last 35 games behind the plate where the Owls are 23-12. In this stretch where Kopycinski has caught almost each of the last 313.0 innings, the Rice pitching staff has enjoyed a composite 3.34 ERA with (mainly) him behind the plate.

Conference Titles Streak Now On The Line!
Rice's streak of consecutive conference titles is 20-straight years (just one behind its NCAA streak)... The Owls have 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
2016    C-USA         4th               ---
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

Did You Know? Part I
Jon Duplantier's 14 strikeouts against UCF was the most by an Owl in a single game since Eddie Degerman fanned 14 against Baylor in an NCAA Regional in 2006. Between the Degerman and Duplantier games, there were three Owls to post 13 strikeouts in a game: Ryan Berry vs. Southern Miss in 2008, Matthew Reckling vs. Grambling in 2012, and Austin Kubitza vs. Hawaii in 2013. The last time an Owl had 15 strikeouts in a game was Joe Savery vs. Fresno State on April 30, 2005. The most before that was Degerman with 16 vs. Louisiana Tech on April 9, 2005, to tie for the third-highest single-game total in Rice history.

Did You Know? Part II
In the series finale vs. national power Arizona (Feb. 21), sophomore Dane Myers had two triples in the 4-3 Rice win. The last Owl to do that was eventual major leaguer Josh Rodriguez vs. Miami-Ohio in 2004. As a team Rice had three triples in the May 4 win vs. Lamar, including two in one inning.

National Postseason Streak At 21-Straight
Rice baseball's 21-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the nation's fourth-longest active streak. In 2015 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 43rd-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (38) and Cal State Fullerton (24). Rice's 21-straight NCAA Tournament bids is also now tied for the fourth-longest postseason streak in Division I baseball history (after Clemson saw its 21-year regional streak snapped in 2008).

Owls Ink Nine In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program has signed nine high school standouts in the early period who will join the team for the 2017 season. The list of newest Owls includes Matt Canterino, Garrett Gayle, Brad Gneiting, Addison Moss, Mackenzie Mueller, Sean Reynolds, Chace Sarchet, Nick Silber, and Zach Wright. The group consists of three multi-position players who are versatile enough to contribute as both a pitcher and position player/hitter. Four are pitchers (only) and there are two outfielders. Eight are from the high school ranks. Seven are from Texas and three are from the greater Houston area.

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 17 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999-2015 (this listing do not include games played in 2016):
Team               Years  Wins  Loses  Ties    PCT
Florida St.          17    835    299    1    .736
Rice                 17    799    302    0    .726
North Carolina       17    763    325    1    .701
South Carolina       17    780    337    0    .698
Cal St. Fullerton    17    739    324    0    .695
LSU                  17    762    333    6    .695
Miami (FL)           17    732    330    3    .689
Texas                17    747    341    1    .686
Coastal Caro.        17    714    331    0    .683
Oral Roberts         17    695    323    0    .683
Arizona St.          17    672    312    2    .683
Georgia Tech         17    708    352    1    .668
Virginia             17    684    355    3    .658
Nebraska             17    666    365    2    .646
Clemson              17    709    392    1    .644
Col.of Charleston    17    645    361    1    .641
East Carolina        17    659    369    3    .641
TCU                  17    667    375    0    .640
Stanford             17    659    372    2    .639
Florida Atlantic     17    651    370    1    .637
Oregon St.           17    624    356    1    .637
Florida              17    685    391    2    .636
Tulane               17    658    377    2    .635
Oklahoma St.         17    651    375    0    .635
Texas A&M            17    669    392    3    .630
Louisville           17    654    386    1    .629
Wichita St.          17    660    390    0    .629
Kent St.             17    631    373    0    .628
Notre Dame           17    633    376    5    .627
Southern             17    494    295    0    .626
Vanderbilt           17    658    395    0    .625
Ohio St.             17    622    379    1    .621
UL-Lafayette         17    646    395    1    .620
Southern Miss.       17    636    390    1    .620





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