Nov. 9, 2011
HOUSTON -- The Rice baseball program has signed seven recruits in the early period who will join the team for the 2013 season, announced head coach Wayne Graham on Wednesday (Nov. 9), the first day commitments can sign in the early period.
All of the Owls' signees are from the high school ranks around the greater Houston area. The group can continue their collegiate careers in front of hometown crowds at Rice's Reckling Park.
The signees include Leon Byrd, Blake Fox, Hunter Kopycinski, Kevin McCanna, Beau Rathjen, Dustin Theiss and Connor Teykl (a roster listing appears below). The group officially enrolls at Rice in the fall of 2012. Their first baseball season with the Owls would be in the spring of 2013. Coach Graham had high praise for the program's latest class and his assistant coaches who brought the signees together.
"We have an unusually talented recruiting class, for a November signing date," said coach Graham, who is now in his 21st season at the helm of the Owls' program. "(Assistant coaches) Mike (Taylor) and Pat (Hallmark) did an incredible job. This certainly fulfills our basic needs. We've got some pitching, power and some multiple position guys that we can move anywhere and are talented athletes.
It's obviously not a huge recruiting class, but we're very proud of it is just because so right on target for our needs with talented people," coach Graham added. "It's incredible that it's an entirely local recruiting class."
The signees are a talented group of individuals who have garnered a host of awards and led their respective teams to success. Leon Byrd is a versatile middle infielder from Cy Ranch High School in Cypress, Tex. As a junior last spring Byrd earned second team all-District 17-5A honors as a switching-hitting second baseman after batting .415 with two home runs, 23 stolen bases and 30 runs scored.
Blake Fox is a 6-foot-4 left-handed pitcher from Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Tex., who helped lead the Knights to the 2011 Southwest Preparatory Conference championship. He went 7-2 on the mound with a 2.48 ERA and struck out 85 batters in 62 innings. Offensively he hit .390 with a .650 slugging percentage, 34 RBI and 28 runs scored in 36 games. Fox has deep family connection to Rice baseball, with both his father (Mike Fox), his grandfather (Jim Fox), and his second cousin (Matt Fox), all were Rice baseball lettermen.
Hunter Kopycinski is a two-time first team TAPPS 3-5A catcher from nearby St. Thomas High School. Last season he batted .447 with seven home runs, 52 RBI and an .835 slugging percentage to help lead the Eagles to a second-straight state championship under head coach and former Houston Astros star Craig Biggio.
Kevin McCanna went 3-0 with a 1.97 ERA on the mound for The Woodlands High School. He was selected to the Houston Area Baseball Coaches Junior All-Star Team and he was a member of Team Texas that played in the Junior Sunbelt Classic played in McAlester, Okla. McCanna is a 6-foot-1 right-handed pitcher for the Highlanders who also contributed as a left-handed hitter.
Beau Rathjen becomes the Owls' fourth signee in the last five recruiting classes from Houston Memorial High School. In addition to first team all-District 19-5A honors last season, the 6-foot-4 right-handed hitting outfielder already has a Rice baseball connection. He's the younger brother of current Owl outfielder Jeremy Rathjen, an all-Conference USA honoree on the field and in the classroom. Beau Rathjen and fellow Owl signees McCanna, Kopycinski and Byrd were all recent teammates at the 2011 Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif.
Connor Teykl was named a first team all-District 22-5A selection as junior after batting .467 with six home runs and 32 RBI. As a right-handed pitcher Teykl went 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA.
Klein Oak High School shortstop Dustin Theiss earned second team all-district honors in 13-5A, one of the most competitive districts in the state. In 2011 he batted .400 with nine home runs, 15 doubles and 10 stolen bases to help lead the Panthers to a 28-win season and to the 2011 Regional Finals.
Under coach Graham the Owls went 42-21 in 2011 and won the Conference USA Tournament Championship. The Blue & Gray advanced to an NCAA Regional for a 17th-straight year and hosted postseason play at home at Reckling Park. Rice opens the 2012 campaign at home on Feb. 17-19 against NCAA Regional participant Florida International.
2011 Rice Baseball Signing Class (to enroll in the Fall of 2012)
|Name||Pos.||B/T||Ht.||Wt.||Hometown (Previous School)||Leon Byrd||Inf.||S/R||5-8||170||Cypress, Tex. (Cy-Ranch HS)||Blake Fox||P/Inf.||L/L||6-4||220||Bellaire, Tex. (Episcopal HS)||Hunter Kopycinski||C||R/R||5-11||175||Houston, Tex. (St. Thomas HS)||Kevin McCanna||P||L/R||6-1||185||The Woodlands, Tex. (The Woodlands HS)||Beau Rathjen||OF||R/R||6-4||190||Houston, Tex. (Memorial HS)||Connor Teykl||Inf./P||L/R||6-3||188||Sugar Land, Tex. (Kempner HS)||Dustin Theiss||Inf.||R/R||6-0||170||Spring, Tex. (Klein Oak HS)|