June 9, 2008
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This Week: Owls Head Back To Omaha, Again!
The Rice baseball team, 47-13 overall and winners of the Houston (Rice) Super Regional last weekend, meets the red-hot Fresno State Bulldogs (42-29) in its opening game of the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. A listing of the College World Series bracket appears on page two of this guide... The Owls are the No. 6 national seed of the 2008 NCAA tournament field, which started with 64 teams but is now down to just eight after Super Regional action wrapped up on June 9. Rice won its home regional over a field of Texas, St. John's and Sam Houston State. The Blue and Gray won its super regional series against longtime rival and Big 12 Conference power Texas A&M at home by a count of two games to none... Fresno State has stormed its way to Omaha by winning a road regional vs. host Long Beach State, San Diego and California as the No. 4 regional seed. The Bulldogs then defeated Arizona State in a road Super Regional, two games to one.
The baseball talent-rich state of Texas produced eight Division I teams than earned a bid to the 2008 NCAA Tournament. For the third year in a row, Rice is the last school from the state of Texas still playing.
Quick College World Series/NCAA History
Rice is playing in its 14th-consecutive NCAA tournament. The Owls are in the College World Series for the seventh time, with previous trips in 1997, '99, 2002, '03, '06, '07 and '08. The team went 2-2 to finish tied for third in the country in both of it two most-recent trips to Omaha in '06 and '07. The baseball program won the school's first national championship in a team sport in its venture to the CWS in 2003, defeating Stanford in the final series two games to one... Rice's all-time record in NCAA Tournament games is 63-29 (.685). The Owls are 10-11 in 21 CWS games. The team won its first Series game in 1999, a 7-2 victory over Oklahoma State... Rice has been to eight super regionals (1999, 2001, '02, '03, '05, '06, '07 and '08). Only Miami (Fla.) has been to more super regionals than Rice since the current format was adopted in 1999. Florida State has also been to eight. Rice is a combined 13-7 in 20 super regional games.
All College World Series Games On ESPN/ESPN2
ESPN and ESPN2 are scheduled to broadcast every College World Series game. The network showed every super regional series on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN360, including the two home games from Reckling Park over the weekend... Rice has already had six games nationally televised this year.
Every Rice baseball game is broadcast live around the world on the Internet at RiceOwls.com and KTRU.org. For as long as the Owls play in the NCAA Tournament, the games will be broadcast live on the radio in the Houston area on KTRU (91.7 FM). A direct connection to the audio feed is provided on RiceOwls.com. David Saltzman, broadcaster for Owl baseball, men's basketball and football, has the Rice call of the games in the postseason.
Live Stats On GameTracker
Live play-by-play text and statistics from every Rice game will be posted on RiceOwls.com. Use the "GT" or GameTracker links on the Rice home page, the Regional info center, the Rice baseball schedule page and the top of each game-advance.
When Facing The Best
The No. 6 national seed may be because of Rice's success against national-caliber opponents. The Owls' record against nationally-ranked opponents (15-4) is even better now that the team has been through the Super Regional round. Rice has out-hit the ranked foes by 60 points (.281 to .221) and maintained a 2.90 ERA in those 19 games against the country's elite teams.
We Know Who's Dancin'
If you needed any authoritative insight on the 2008 NCAA bracket you should have asked Rice. The Owls have played 33 games against 13 different teams in this year's NCAA Tournament. The Blue & Gray is 23-10 against one-fifth of the 64-team field.
14 With 42
Rice clinched its 14th-straight season with at least 40 wins. It's an accomplishment to be sure, but limiting it to just 40 wins short-changes it a little bit. The Owls have in fact won at least 42 games a year in every season since 1995. Rice has won at least 45 games in 11 of the last 12 years.
14-Straight NCAA Appearances
Rice is making its 14th-consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship, the fourth-longest active streak in Division I. Here is a look at the longest active streaks: 36 Miami (Fla.)
31 Florida State
17 Cal State Fullerton
14 Rice Owls
National Ranking Update Owls Fifth In The Polls
Now that the College World Series field is set, the current batch of polls may stand until the end of the Series. The polls from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers (NCBWA) put the Owls as high as fourth in the nation. That's even higher than the No. 6 national seed. All the current polls have Rice in the Top 5. The most-recent national ranking roll call is as follows... NCBWA 4th
Baseball America 5th
Collegiate Baseball 5th
USA Today/ESPN 5th (May 26)
Rivals.com 7th (May 26)
Head Coach Wayne Graham
Four-time National Coach of the Year and Texas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Graham (Texas, 1970) is in his 17th season at Rice... He is 787-297 with the Owls (482-101 at home, 235-153 in road games and 70-43 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .726, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .726 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 118 games in a single year... Graham's record against the College World Series teams in its half of the bracket is: 29-16 vs. Fresno State (17-4 home, 10-12 road, 2-0 neutral), 2-3 vs North Carolina (1-0 home, 1-3 neutral) and 7-2 vs. Louisiana State (2-0 home, 5-0 road, 0-2 neutral)... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2008, making 14-straight seasons for Rice to earn an NCAA appearance. 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 the C-USA regular season crowns in 2006, 2007 and now 2008, as well as the C-USA tournament championships in `06 and `07. Rice has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08... 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 and `08... Rice now 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 Mike Taylor (Prairie View A&M, 1997; eighth year), David Pierce (Houston, 1988; sixth year), Patrick Hallmark (Rice, 1995; third year)... Graham has coached at third base every season he has been at Rice.
1,362 A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 786 career wins at Rice, but he also has 1,362 victories when including his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall collegiate record is 1,362-410 in a 27-year career that began in 1981.
Rice has the fourth-best won-loss percentage (.783, 47-13) of any team in the country. The Owls also are tied for eighth in the nation in wins.
Sophomore Ryan Berry (8-4, 3.31) has been the Rice starting pitcher for each of the opening games of the Regional and Super Regional. Berry last started the Regional. The right-hander has been the Owls' exclusive "Friday night pitcher" all season, including non-conference games on the road at Long Beach State on opening day (Feb. 22), against Oklahoma at Minute Maid Park, Michigan State and Winthrop. He started Friday games in Conference USA last season and went on to earn National Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors from Collegiate Baseball Magazine. The Humble, Tex., native leads the team in innings pitched (100.2) and strikeouts (85). Berry is second on the team in wins (8) and held opposing hitters to a composite .253 batting average. He fired a complete game, three-hit shutout on the road at Memphis. In a start against NCAA Tournament-bound Southern Miss, he struck out a career-high 13 in 8.1 innings. Against NCAA Tournament-bound Tulane on the road, he pitched 8.0 shutout innings for his 18th career win. He averages 7.6 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per 9.0 innings... Fellow Owl right-handers Mike Ojala, Chris Kelley and Matt Langwell are also proven pitchers who have performed well in a starting role all season long. That righty group is 22-5 as a starting staff.
Previous Outing: Owls Complete Sweep of Texas A&M To Win Home Super Regional
HOUSTON -- In Sunday's Super Regional Adam Zornes drilled a two-out, two-run homer in the top of the eighth to give the Rice Owls a 6-5 win over Texas A&M and earn their third consecutive berth in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb... The Owls never led in the game until Zornes drilled the first pitch he saw over the Reckling Park wall in left center. The homer made a winner of reliever Bryan Price (4-4), who entered the game in relief and pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless relief to calm an Aggie offense that scored five runs in the first four innings. Bobby Bell came on to toss the final two frames to pick up his third save. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, he walked one batter, but came back to get a double play ground ball to end the game... Owls starter Mike Ojala, who worked out of a jam in the second, was touched for a pair of runs in the third. Kevin Gonzalez opened the frame with a single.He stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. After a walk to Brodie Greene, he scored on a double by Kyle Colligan. One out later, Green scored on a groundout by Jose Duran for a 2-0 A&M lead... Rice tied the game in the fourth. Diego Seastrunk singled and Luna was hit by a pitch. Freshman Rick Hague worked the count to 3-2 before drilling a double down the left field line to score both runners and tie the game... The Aggies wasted little time in retaking the lead with three runs in the bottom of the fourth, 5-2... Hague closed the gap in the top of the sixth when his chopper to short hopped over Aggie shortstop Duran to drive in Seastrunk and Luna... In the eighth Hague hit a dribbler to third base for his third hit on the night. With two away, Zornes drilled the first pitch just over the wall in left center for his 12th homer of the year and the first by either team in the Super Regional.
Hague Earns Freshman All-America Honors
For an outstanding first season at the Division I level, Rice's Rick Hague has been named to the Freshman All-America Teams of Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA)... The standout from Spring, Tex., helped the Owls secure a seventh trip to the College World Series since 1997 with a sensational debut season. He is batting .347 with eight home runs and 19 doubles for a team-leading .556 slugging percentage and Rice-best 125 total bases. Earlier in the year he maintained a 17-game hitting streak and has collected two or more hits in a team-best 26 times. Hague is as solid on defense as he is at the plate, starting or turning 42 of the Owls' 61 double plays... Hague was selected as a Second Team Freshman all-America by the NCBWA. The first-year shortstop was also a member of the Conference USA All-Freshman squad. Rice baseball has had a freshman all-America selection every year since 2005.
Owls Feel A Draft
A total of 11 Owls were selected in the 2008 Major League Baseball amateur draft, including junior right-hander Bryan Price as a first-round supplemental pick (the 45th player taken overall) on June 5... Bryan Price was taken by the Boston Red Sox organization in the supplemental round, the so called "sandwich" round between the draft's official first and second rounds. He was the first pitcher taken by the Red Sox, the defending World Series champions. Price was also the 13th right-handed pitcher taken overall. Six Rice juniors and four seniors were drafted on June 6... The total of eleven drafted players was three-off the Owls' school record of 14 draftees the team had taken in 2007.
Rnd Player Pos MLB Team
1A Bryan Price RHP Boston Red Sox
7 Cole St.Clair LHP Los Angeles Dodgers
7 Adam Zornes C San Diego Padres
9 Aaron Luna OF St. Louis Cardinals
11 Matt Langwell RHP Cleveland Indians
12 Jared Gayhart OF Detroit Tigers
18 Bobby Bell RHP Toronto Blue Jays
21 Lucas Luetge LHP Milwaukee Brewers
24 Chris Kelley RHP Washington Nationals
29 Jonathan Runnels LHP Los Angeles Dodgers
44 J.P. Padron 1B Washington Nationals
Five Owls, Jimmy Comerota (2B), Rick Hague (SS), Chad Mozingo (OF), J.P. Padron (1B) and Adam Zornes (C) and were selected to the All-Houston (Rice) Regional team on vote of the attending media. The five players combined for 25 of the team's 31 hits and 15 of the Blue & Gray's 21 runs during the Regional.
Graham Headlines Rice's C-USA Award Winners
Coach Graham headlined the lengthy list of Rice's Conference USA award winners with his selection as the Keith LeClair Coach of the Year the league office announced on May 20 in New Orleans, La... Graham and nine of his Owl players, enough to fill out an entire lineup card, were recognized for their success on the diamond the day before taking the field for the tournament. All the award winners, including coach Graham and Conference USA First Team selections Ryan Berry (SP) and Diego Seastrunk (Inf.), were named on a vote of the league's head coaches, sports information directors and a media representative from each city... Rice has been a member of Conference USA for three seasons and Graham has been named the league's Coach of the Year each year. Graham led the Owls' to a third consecutive regular season championship and a national ranking that is currently No. 5 in the nation. Rice went 21-3 in C-USA games and is 47-13 overall. The team won 22-of-23 at one point. The Keith LeClair Coach of the Year award is named after the former East Carolina head coach who courageously battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or as it is more commonly known as, Lou Gehrig's Disease. Diagnosed with the disease in 2001, LeClair continued to attend Pirate home games and support ECU baseball until passing away in July, 2006.. Berry and Seastrunk are just two of Graham's pupils to earn individual distinction for their respective 2008 seasons. Jared Gayhart (OF), Chris Kelley (SP), Aaron Luna (OF), Cole St.Clair (RP) and Adam Zornes (C) were named to the all-Conference USA Second Team while Matt Evers (RP) and Matt Hague (Inf.) were named to the league's All-Freshman squad. Rice had the most total all-conference selections with nine while East Carolina had five players earn six awards.
Did You Know?
Since joining Conference USA in 2006 Rice's all-time record in regular season league games is 65-7 (.903).
Three Owls On C-USA All-Academic Team
The Rice trio of Cole St.Clair, Chris Kelley and Jimmy Comerota have all been named to the 2008 Conference USA All-Academic Baseball Team, the league announced May 19... The C-USA All-Academic team consists of student-athletes with a 3.2 cumulative grade point average or better and are a starter or key reserve for their team. The members were voted upon by the league's sports information directors. Rice and Southern Miss both placed three student-athletes on the 14-member all-academic squad to tie for the most from any school... The Rice trio of senior pitchers Chris Kelley and Cole St.Clair and sophomore Jimmy Comerota garnered academic recognition after leading their team to the 2008 C-USA regular season title. Kelley owns a 3.28 GPA in kinesiology... St.Clair, a finalist for the Lowe's Senior Class Award as the nation's top senior student-athlete, graduated from Rice on May10 with a 3.22 GPA as an economics major. He was also the recipient of the 2008 Bob Quin Award, which is given to the most outstanding senior male student-athlete at Rice who exemplifies leadership, academic and athletic excellence... Comerota is a two-time Commissioner's Honor Roll selection with a 3.25 GPA as an economics/ kinesiology major.
96th Season Since The Start; 93rd Season On The Field
The 2008 season marks the 96th year since the Rice Owls played baseball for the first time. Only one semester after Rice opened its doors for higher education for the first time in the fall of 1912, Rice Owls baseball made its debut in the spring of 1913. The 2008 season is, however, only the Owls' 93rd season on the diamond. The school did not field a baseball 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.
Luna Continues Career Climb
Junior outfielder Aaron Luna continues his career climb in the Rice record books. The Southlake, Tex., star has 38 career home runs and the now needs just one more to move into a tie for fifth place on Rice's all-time list with Jay Knoblauh (39 career hr), a 1999 inductee into the Rice Athletics Hall of Fame.
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