Oct. 1, 2012
HOUSTON -- Rice head baseball coach Wayne Graham welcomed back 19 returning lettermen from last season's team that earned the program's 18th-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, and nine newcomers to the roster, as the Owls held their first fall practice of 2012 on Monday afternoon (Oct. 1) at Reckling Park.
The Owls return four offensive starters in the batting order and eight veteran pitchers who helped lead the 2012 team to a 41-19 record and the Conference USA regular season title. Seven of the newcomers are freshmen from the high school ranks and there are two joining Rice as junior transfers.
After a brief period of conditioning and drills, Graham divided the team for a Blue-Gray scrimmage. He stated playing time in the spring (2013) could be a direct correlation to a player's performance in the fall. The head coach is keeping a close eye out for players to win starting jobs in the fall program. On Day One Graham liked what he saw.
"We've got a great attitude and a lot of talent," coach Graham said. "The players coming-back are fine, and young ones coming-in really look like they are going to be a supplement to our team. I think we have a little more speed than last year."
"We have to find a new centerfielder, another corner outfielder, and a first baseman," he said. "We've got a lot of options. We've got some quality recruits and guys coming back are looking good too.
"There's plenty of arms," Graham added about the pitching staff. "We still have Austin Kubitza and so Zech Lemond, who had a great summer. Lemond is an option to start. John Simms was undefeated and Kevin McCanna was arguably the best high school pitcher in the stats that didn't sign a pro contract. Tyler Spurlin looked very good in individual workouts. It's who steps forward in the fall and early spring."
The Owls have four exhibitions for each of the weekends in October, including an exhibition this Sunday (Oct. 7) in Reckling Park against the University of Houston. Three of the exhibitions are scheduled for Reckling Park where there will be no charge for admission. One will be played at The Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Tex., against TCU on Oct. 14. Coach Graham has a specific set of goals for fall-ball, but he also pointed out that winning is an important habit to acquire. Fall-ball is as good a place as any to start.
"The goals are to solidify who is going to play where, evaluate the talent, get the talent better, and keep moving forward," Graham explained. "We're addressing fundamentals that are necessary to improve our hitting. The scrimmages are an evaluation tool, but we always want to come out with more runs than the other team."