Jan. 27, 2011
IRVING, Tex. - With returning National Player of the Year Anthony Rendon tabbed as the 2011 Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year, along with fellow Owls Jeremy Rathjen and Taylor Wall selected as preseason all-conference honorees, the Rice baseball team was picked to finish first in the league in a recent head coaches poll, the C-USA office announced on Thursday (Jan. 27).
The announcement of the C-USA coaches' poll is just one day before the Owls are scheduled to hold their first practice of the season on Friday (Jan. 28). Rice, East Carolina and Southern Miss all had three preseason honorees, sharing the most of any school in the annual coaches' survey.
Already a 2011 preseason All-America selection by Collegiate Baseball magazine and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA), the C-USA coaches voted Rendon as the favorite to win what would be his third C-USA Player of the Year Award in as many seasons. The Owls' junior third baseman became the first freshman to win the C-USA player of the year award in 2009, and then just the second player in league history to earn the honor twice when he won it again in 2010. A year ago Rendon batted .394 and ranked among the NCAA leaders in home runs (26), RBI (85) and slugging percentage (.801). The Houston native from nearby Lamar High School was named the recipient of the 2010 Howser Trophy as the National Player of the Year.
Junior outfielder Jeremy Rathjen earned second team all-conference honors after a solid sophomore season in 2010. A year ago Rathjen batted a steady .317 with 13 home runs. The local standout from Memorial High School drove-in 69 runs and scored 52 times in 57 games played.
Taylor Wall is a left-handed pitcher who earned second-team all-Conference USA accolades in 2010. Wall went 5-5 with a 4.45 ERA in 15 starts. The Houston native from Westside High School finished among the C-USA leaders in starts, innings pitched (85.0) and strikeouts (61). He held all opponents to a composite .233 batting average.
Last spring the trio of Wall, Rathjen and Rendon helped the Rice baseball team post a 40-23 record and advance to an NCAA Regional for a 16th-straight year. Under the direction of head coach Wayne Graham, who is in his 20th season with the Blue & Gray, the Owls have won at least 40 games in each of the last 16 seasons and have won or shared 15-consecutive conference championships (including regular season and/or conference tournament titles). The Owls open the 2011 season with a three-game home series at Reckling Park against nationally-ranked Stanford on Feb. 18-20.
2011 CONFERENCE USA PRESEASON BASEBALL AWARDS
(as selected by C-USA's head coaches)
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Rice (6)
2. Southern Miss (2)
3. East Carolina
4. UCF (1)
(first place votes in parentheses)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Anthony Rendon, Rice (Junior, Third Baseman)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Todd McInnis, Southern Miss (Senior, RHP)
P, Seth Maness, Sr., East Carolina
P, Todd McInnis, Sr., Southern Miss
P, Taylor Wall, Jr., Rice
RP, Collin Cargill, Sr., Southern Miss
C, Victor Gomez, Jr., Marshall
IF, Garrett Cannizaro, So., Tulane
IF, Anthony Rendon, Jr., Rice
IF, Corey Thompson, Jr., East Carolina
IF, B.A. Vollmuth, Jr., Southern Miss
IF, Chad Zurcher, Jr., Memphis
OF, Jamal Austin, Jr., UAB
OF, Drew Martinez, Jr., Memphis
OF, Trent Whitehead, Sr., East Carolina
DH/UT, Jeremy Rathjen, Jr., Rice