The Rice baseball program has signed nine new standouts in the early period who will join the team for the 2018 season, head coach Wayne Graham announced on Tuesday (Nov. 22).
The list of newest Owls includes Dane Acker, Luis Aviles, Justin Collins, Braden Comeaux, Dominic Cox, Trei Cruz, Joshua Larzabal, Parker Osburn and Kelby Weyler.
The group consists of two multi-position players who are versatile enough to contribute as both a pitcher and position player/hitter. There are three infielders and three catchers. All are from the high school ranks. Seven are from Texas and five are from the greater Houston area.
Now in his 26th season at the helm of the Owl program, coach Graham has long had an eye for athleticism, quality arms and long-term potential, as well as recruits who will be competitive in Rice’s elite academic curriculum. The head coach also specifically acknowledged the work of his staff for their roles in what could prove to be a sensational recruiting class.
“This is a good group to have on our side,” coach Graham said. “Obviously we can concentrate on the Houston area because we know the local players and coaches as well as they know us and our reputation. There’s a great number of players here and it’s one of the prime recruiting areas in the country every year, so naturally we would naturally concentrate on our home area.
“When recruiting you not only try look ahead to where we’ll be two seasons from now (Spring of 2018), but the player for that time and beyond,” coach Graham added. “(Rice assistant coaches) Clay (Van Hook) and John (Pope) worked hard, and filled our needs with talented players.”
Right-handed pitcher who is also talented enough to play in the infield, Dane Acker is first team District 19-6A selection for Brenham High School. In addition to a .346 batting average the Texas High School Coaches Association all-star invitee maintained a 1.92 ERA on the mound. Acker also played for Team Texas at the 2015 Sunbelt Baseball Classic.
Luis Aviles batted .436 with 20 RBI in 20 games last season for Westminster Christian High School in Palmetto Bay, Florida. He had 11 doubles and a home run for a .690 slugging percentage to go along with a .573 on-base percentage. Aviles played club baseball for the Atlanta Blue Jays, where last summer he was named to the Perfect Game Cartersville, Ga., all-tournament team. He is a member of both the national Honor Society and Science National Honor Society.
Justin Collins is a two-time all-District 18-6A catcher/infielder at Memorial High School in Houston, who helped lead the Mustangs to the league’s regular season championship with an undefeated record. Twice named to the 18-6A baseball all-academic team. Second team all-Houston selection and H6ABaseball Newcomer of the Years as a sophomore in 2015. Played club ball for C2 Select.
Braden Comeaux is a starting infielder for powerhouse Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La., the 2016 state champion and the nation’s No. 8 ranked prep program after going 35-6 last season. The two-time all-state honoree who was named a Louisville Slugger High School All-America as a sophomore in 2015. He played in the Louisiana High School All-Star game, while also maintaining a 3.98 grade point average
Dominic Cox is the lone outfielder in the signing class helped lead Fort Bend Travis to a 25-5-1 record and District 23-6A title with a perfect 16-0 league ledger. He batted .321 with 26 hits, 22 RBI and 30 runs scored in 30 games. Cox is a two-time all-district honoree who participated in the 2016 Perfect Game National Showcase, and he was an invitee to the Houston Area Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Game. The versatile athlete also played varsity football for the Tigers.
Trei Cruz is switch-hitting infielder who helped lead nearby Bellaire Episcopal High School to a 24-7 record. He signs with the Owls following in the footsteps of his father, Rice Athletics Hall of Fame inductee and former major leaguer Jose Cruz, Jr., (1995) - as well as his uncle, Enrique Cruz (2003), a starter on the 2003 National Championship team. At Episcopal Cruz trained under the direction of head coach Matt Fox, a former Rice Owl letterman (2001). He was a member of the Area Code team who also played in the HABC Junior All-Star Game.
Joshua Larzabal is a left-handed pitcher/first baseman who was named All-Greater Houston and to Team Texas as a junior. He is a two-time first team all-District 21-6A selection who helped lead the Mustangs to an appearance in the 2016 state playoffs. Larzabal was recognized as a High Honorable Mention All-America by Perfect Game.
Parker Osburn is a veteran backstop who helped lead Clear Creek High School to a 23-8-1 record, the District 24-6A regular season title, and to the Region III regional quarterfinals of the state tournament. He was named a High Honorable Mention All-America selection by Perfect Game.
Kelby Weyler earned High Honorable Mention All-America selection by Perfect Game, playing shortstop/pitcher for Warren High School in southeast Texas. He was named to the 2016 WWBA World Championship All-Tournament Team while playing for the Premier Baseball Futures. Weyler earned first team all-District 23-3A for the Warriors as a junior in 2016, and was the league’s co-MVP as a sophomore in 2015.
2016 Rice Baseball Signing Class (to enroll in the Fall of 2017 for 2018 season)
|Name||Pos.||B/T||Ht.||Wt.||Hometown (Previous School)||Dane Acker||Rhp/Util.||R/R||6-2||194||Brenham, Texas (Brenham HS)||Luis Aviles||C||S/R||5-11||195||Palmetto Bay, Fla. (Westminster Christian)||Braden Comeaux||Inf.||R/R||5-11||175||Lake Charles, La. (Barbe HS)||Dominic Cox||Of.||R/R||5-10||175||Richmond, Texas (Fort Bend Travis HS)||Trei Cruz||Inf.||S/R||6-1||175||Houston, Texas (Episcopal HS)||Joshua Larzaba||Lhp/Inf.||L/L||6-0||200||Houston, Texas (North Shore HS)||Parker Osburn||C||R/R||5-11||165||League City, Texas (Clear Creek HS)||Justin Collins||C||R/R||6-2||205||Houston, Texas (Memorial HS)||Kelby Weyler||Inf.||R/R||5-10||170||Village Mills, Texas (Warren HS)|