Baseball Plays FIU Wednesday at C-USA Championship

May 21, 2014

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May 21 (Wed.) 12:30 pm; FIU vs. Rice at Hattiesburg, Miss
Watch the game on the web by upgrading to C-USA Digital Network
(activates at game time)

May 22 (Thur.) time & opponent TBA at Hattiesburg, Miss
Watch the game on the web by upgrading to C-USA Digital Network
(activates at game time)

No. 1 Seed Rice Owls Play Wednesday Afternoon at 2014 C-USA Baseball Championship
The Rice baseball team, 37-17 overall and ranked No. 16 in the nation in the latest USA Today/ESPN coach's poll, is the No. 1 seed of the 2014 Conference USA Championship beginning this Wednesday through Sunday (May 21-25) in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Championship will be held at Southern Miss' Pete Taylor Park, and features the league's top eight teams in two Omaha-style double-elimination brackets. The winner of the Championship earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins May 30 at 16 regional sites across the country.

Rice Meets FIU In Opener
Rice meets eighth-seed FIU (36-18 overall, 16-14 C-USA) on Wednesday at 12:30 pm. The Owls then face either four-seed Middle Tennessee (30-25, 17-13) or five seed Old Dominion (33-22, 17-13) on Thursday at either 9 am (loser's bracket) or 4 pm (winner's bracket). The Championship Final of the 19th annual tournament will be just one game on Sunday beginning at 1 pm. That contest is scheduled for a live telecast by Fox Sports Network.

Did You Know? All Eight Have 30-Plus Wins
This year's C-USA Championship marks the first time in league history that all eight participating teams have won 30 or more games.

98th Season On The Baseball Diamond
Rice Owl baseball made its debut in the spring of 1913, just one semester after the school (then The Rice Institute) opened its doors for higher education in the fall of 1912. The 2014 season is, however, only the Owls' 98th season playing on the diamond. The school cancelled its baseball season in 1919 and did not field a 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. The Rice baseball program's all-time record is 1,941 - 1,526 - 9.

Watch The Games On OwlVision All Access
Every game of the C-USA Championship is slated for a live on-line video broadcast by OwlVision All Access in conjunction with an upgrade to the C-USA Digital Network package. OwlVision is a subscription-based service which matches the play-by-play audio with a video feed to create a television-like broadcast on the Internet (either live or in an archived format). The service has been growing in popularity the last few years. Information about the service and subscription prices are available at

Audio Broadcasts - Catch Every Rice Baseball Game On The Web
Every Rice baseball game this season will be broadcast live around the world on the Internet at Tune-in to the pregame show 15 minutes before each game's first pitch. Fans attending home games can listen to the Rice broadcast at Reckling Park via an FM proximity transmitter. The FM frequencies for the in-stadium broadcasts at Reckling Park is 99.7 FM. J.P. Heath is back for his sixth season as the regular voice of the Owls. For some selected home games, "R" Association Director Jimmy Comerota will be joining in on the Rice broadcast and providing commentary from a former player's perspective.

Heath Tabbed For Two In-House Broadcasts
Rice's J.P. Heath has been tabbed to do two C-USA tournament games as a "neutral" broadcaster for the in-house feed when the Owls are not playing. The exact games will be announced at a later time.

Live Stats On GameTracker
Links to live play-by-play text and statistics from every game are posted on Look for the GameTracker links on the Rice Athletics front page, the weekly series preview, the baseball schedule page.

Follow The Tweeting Rice Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceOwlsBSB while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceOwlsdotcom.

National Rankings Update • Rice Ranked No. 14
Rice is nationally-ranked in a host of different college baseball polls. The Owls are No. 14 in the nation according to the latest Baseball America poll. Here's a closer look at some of the latest national rankings, and changes from the previous week:

PollThis WeekLast Week
USA Today1615
Baseball America1714
College Sports Madness1719
Collegiate Baseball Magazine2020

High RPI
If you have disdain for the politics of the various baseball polls and prefer the cold, hard math of the NCAA's Rating Power Index, then consider Rice's latest spot in this week's official national listing of all 302 Division I RPIs:
NCAA RPI Current Previous
Rice 10 6

Head Coach Wayne Graham
Four-time national coach of the year and 2012 College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Graham (Texas, 1970) is in his 23rd season at Rice. The 2014 campaign marks his 34th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,034-417 with the Owls (618-152 at home, 323-205 on the road games and 93-60 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .713, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .713 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 115 games in a single year... Graham's record vs. the team's in Rice's C-USA bracket are as follows: 9-1 vs. FIU; 1-2 vs. Middle Tennessee; 2-1 vs. Old Dominion; Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2013, making 19-straight seasons for Rice to earn an NCAA appearance. The Blue & Gray has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13. 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 (or shared) C-USA regular season crowns in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and now 2014 as well as the C-USA tournament championships in `06, `07, `09, `11 and `13... 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, `08, `10 and `11... Rice 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 Patrick Hallmark (Rice, 1995, Brown College; ninth year), Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; third year) and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; second year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Shepherd coaches at first.

The `Grand' Coach's 1,000th Rice Win
Wayne Graham posted his 1,000th Division I win in the team's 2014 home-opener against Texas State on Feb. 18. With no shortage of drama, the Owls rallied for that 4-3 victory in the bottom of the 11th inning. Graham entered the 2014 season ranked No. 15 on the NCAA's career wins list for active coaches.

1,608 Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,034 career wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,608 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,608-529 in a 33-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Starting Pitchers
Coach Graham announced Rice's probable starting pitchers for the C-USA Tournament as sophomore right-hander Kevin McCanna (6-3, 2.88) in the opener, followed by sophomore left-hander Blake Fox (11-0, 1.39) in game two, and then freshman right-hander Jon Duplantier (2-2, 2.21) in the team's third game should the Owls advance.
Kevin McCanna has served as both a starter and a reliever this season for a total of 14 appearances. The Woodlands, Texas, native is second on the staff in innings (75.0) and third in ERA. His most-recent appearance was Thursday (May 15) vs. LA Tech - just the fifth series-opening night start of his career. He worked 8.0 innings, allowing just one earned run on seven hits and two walks while tying a career-high with eight strikeouts. Three weeks before against red-hot UAB McCanna fired a complete game shutout, scattering eight singles with no walks while striking out five. In his first Friday night start at Tulane he had seven strikeouts in 7.0 innings. When looking at his statistics as a starter-only, McCanna has held opposing hitters to a composite .247 batting average. On March 8 became the first Owl in more than a decade to pitch more than 9.0 innings in a game, with 9.1 in a C-USA start at home against Old Dominion.
• First team all-conference honoree Blake Fox has responded to his new role in the weekend rotation with aplomb, winning eleven of his 13 "Saturday starts" while maintaining a steady 1.39 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. His wins have been over nationally ranked Stanford on the road, No. 10 ranked TCU at Minute Maid Park, No. 19 FIU on the road, Southern Miss, East Carolina, UTSA, Middle Tennessee, FAU, Tulane, LA Tech and Purdue. He pitched into the ninth inning for the first time in his career at FIU (March 22), holding the Panthers' explosive lineup to just two runs. He fanned a career-best eight against East Carolina (April 5) and matched that a week later at Tulane. This year the Houston native has held all opponents to a .235 batting average, but his sophomore campaign is only part of the story. Fox is undefeated in Rice collegiate career, posting a perfect 17-0 record in a total of 33 appearances dating back to 2013.
• Freshman Jon Duplantier has been another hot pitcher the last few weeks and has gained a spot in the weekend rotation. With the Owls in need of a Sunday win on April 20 vs. UAB, and regular starting pitcher Chase McDowell sidelined with an illness, Duplantier got the call and came up big with the best game of his collegiate career. In just his third career start at the time the Katy, Texas, native worked a career-long 7.2 innings without allowing an earned run. He also set a (then) career-high of seven strikeouts to help complete the series sweep of the Blazers. In a May 11 outing at UTSA, Duplantier reached a new career-best with eight strikeouts in 5.0 innings without allowing any earned runs. He has now allowed only two earned runs his last 10.2 innings for an 1.69 ERA.

Here's Who's Hot
Sophomore centerfielder Leon Byrd went a combined 6-for-8 (.750) in the LA Tech series with an .818 on-base percentage and three runs scored. In Saturday's 4-3 victory he drove in the winning run against the Bulldogs in the bottom of the 11th inning... Keep an eye on infielder Kirby Taylor, who is now 9-for-his-last-20 (.450) with two doubles, five runs scored and four RBI... Senior third baseman Shane Hoelscher is 17-for-his-last-43 (.395) with four doubles, seven RBI, eight runs scored and a .488 on-base percentage over the last eleven games... Junior shortstop Ford Stainback is 7-for-his-last-20 with (.350) with a pair of walks for a .409 on-base average.

Rice At The C-USA Championship
Rice has had its share of success playing in the annual C-USA Championship. The Owls have won it five-of-eight times and were second in one other year. Here's a closer look at the Blue & Gray's C-USA tourney history. (Year, Finish, Record)
2006, 1st, 4-0 2010, 2nd, 3-1
2007, 1st, 4-1 2011, 1st, 3-1
2008, ---, 0-2 2012, ---, 1-2
2009, 1st, 4-0 2013, 1st, 4-0

Previous Outing • Owls Complete Sweep of LA Tech Saturday
HOUSTON - Leon Byrd's third hit of the day was his biggest, driving in the winning run from second base with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning as the Rice baseball team defeated LA Tech 4-3 Saturday to complete the three-game sweep of the C-USA weekend series. After Rice twice had to rally to tie the game in the fifth and then seventh innings, the score was deadlocked at 3-3 until the Owls bottom three hitters came to the plate in the eleventh inning. Connor Teykl punched a base hit up the middle to lead it off, and John Williamson was brought-in to pinch run. Williamson hustled to second on a textbook sacrifice bunt by Ford Stainback, bringing Byrd to the plate for the fifth time in the contest. The sophomore from Cypress, Texas, already had a pair of singles on the day and he lined his third base hit into shallow field. Williamson sprinted for home and slid-in safely under the Bulldog throw to the plate for the game-winning run and the 4-3 final score. Byrd's three hits on the day tied his career-high. The Owls finished with nine in the game, including Stainback who had two and senior Michael Aquino with his fifth home run of the season. Freshman Jon Duplantier started on the mound and struck out three in 4.2 innings. He was relieved by Trevor Teykl who worked 1.1, and Matt Ditman who went on to earn the win with 4.0 shutout innings. Rice closed out the regular season at 37-17 overall and with a first place record of 23-7 in the C-USA standings. LA Tech is now 15-35 overall and 5-25 in conference.

Many Happy Returns
The Owls have had some success recently because two key players, Leon Byrd and Zech Lemond, have returned to action after a month each. In the second game of the UTSA series on May 10 Byrd returned to duty for the first time since April 1 (vs. Texas). Byrd was sidelined more than a month with a lower leg injury. The sophomore from Cypress, Texas, started both of the last two games of the UTSA series in centerfield where he went a combined 2-for-9 with a double, a walk and three runs scored. On Sunday he made a sensational catch of a tricky fly ball to the gap in right-center that saved at least one run and sparked Rice to an eventual 11-2 victory. In the finale of the LA Tech series the Owls had a shutout inning out of the bullpen from Lemond. The junior right-hander from Houston made a very welcome return to action for the first time since April 4. Lemond pitched a scoreless seventh in front of a mass of professional scouts gathered along the Reckling Park concourse.

Take A Closer Look
Rice has 17 losses, but a closer look is in order. Six losses were to teams that were nationally-ranked when the Owls faced them. The same number of losses (6) were by a single run, and one of those was in extra innings. The final margin in ten of Rice's 17 losses has been two runs or less. Another one of the losses was to a streaking Sam Houston State team that went on to enter Baseball America's national rankings that same week (and has since returned to the national spotlight). Consider that the Owls have had a number of the its star players, including Jordan Stephens, Zech Lemond, Shane Hoelscher, Leon Byrd and John Clay Reeves, all sidelined at various points during the season.

New-Look Conference USA
Seven new baseball-playing members (Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion and UTSA) joined Conference USA for the 2014 season. Those seven members joined returning schools East Carolina, Marshall, Southern Miss, Tulane, UAB and Rice to create a 13 team baseball league that played a 30-game conference schedule this season. Here's how the incoming members did a year ago:
Team From... Record League
Florida Atlantic Sun Belt 42-22 19-11
UTSA WAC 35-25 15-11
Charlotte Atlantic 10 37-23 17-7
Florida International Sun Belt 26-32 13-17
Old Dominion Colonial 30-24 15-12
Louisiana Tech WAC 19-37 6-21
Middle Tennessee Sun Belt 28-28 11-19

Florida Atlantic and UTSA each won their conference championships and participated in NCAA Regionals. FAU advanced to the Chapel Hill Regional final before losing to No. 1 national seed North Carolina in extra innings.

Solid In C-USA Regular Season
Since its first Conference USA baseball campaign in the spring of 2006, Rice's regular-season record in C-USA league games is 169-53 (.761).

Conference Titles Streak Now At 19-Straight
Rice has won or shared a total of 19-straight conference championships (including either regular season and/or conference tournament titles) dating back to 1996. The streak covers membership in three different leagues beginning with the Southwest Conference (1996), to nine seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1997-2005) and no nine C-USA titles in as many years. The Owls shared the 2013 regular season title with co-champion Southern Miss, then won the C-USA Tournament by defeating that same Golden Eagle squad in the title game. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 19 years:
Year Conf. Regular Season Conf. Tourney
2014 C-USA 1st ---
2013 C-USA tied 1st 1st
2012 C-USA 1st tied 5th
2011 C-USA tied 1st 1st
2010 C-USA 1st 2nd
2009 C-USA 2nd 1st
2008 C-USA 1st tied 7th
2007 C-USA 1st 1st
2006 C-USA 1st 1st
2005 WAC 1st no tourney
2004 WAC 1st no tourney
2003 WAC 1st no tourney
2002 WAC 1st no tourney
2001 WAC 1st no tourney
2000 WAC tied 1st no tourney
1999 WAC 1st 1st
1998 WAC 1st South Div. 1st
1997 WAC 1st South Div. 1st
1996 SWC tied 6th 1st

Postseason Streak At 19-Straight, Now Looking For 20
Rice baseball's 19-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the nation's fourth-longest active streak. In 2013 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 41st-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (36) and Cal State Fullerton (22). Rice's 19-straight NCAA Tournament bids is the sixth-longest postseason streak in Division I baseball history.

19-Straight 40-Win Seasons
Rice entered the 2014 campaign with 19-straight seasons of posting at least 40 wins. `Forty' wins actually short-changes the feat a little. The Owls have secured at least 41 wins in 18 of the last 19 years.

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice is 8-6 in its all-white uniforms, 6-1 in all-gray, 5-2 in blue tops with white pants, 3-2 in blue tops with gray pants, 12-2 in its new home alternate, and now 3-4 in the new road alternate. Acting on a suggestion Owl great Lance Berkman made to his former head coach Wayne Graham, Rice baseball announced a new addition to its uniform lineup for the 2014 season. Inspired by the iconic St. Louis Cardinals' jersey, the new alternate top features two owls perched atop a bat. With Adidas as the official uniform supplier for Rice Athletics, coach Graham took Berkman's suggestion and introduced something new. "We wanted to stay with our traditional look," said coach Graham, "but also be innovative and pay homage to a classic, beautiful look like that of the Cardinals. (The alternates) are simply an addition and a chance to showcase the owl mascot."

Rice Since 1999
Using the 1999 season as the starting point (the year the NCAA expanded the postseason tournament field to 64 teams with the current Super Regional format), Rice baseball has maintained one of the nation's top win percentages over the last 15 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999 to 2013 (does NOT include 2014 games):
Team Years Wins Loses Ties PCT
Florida State 15 748 261 1 .741
Rice 15 720 260 0 .735
North Carolina 15 694 274 1 .717
Cal State Fullerton 15 666 275 0 .708
South Carolina 15 704 294 0 .705
Coastal Carolina 15 651 277 0 .702
Texas 15 671 293 1 .696
Arizona State 15 604 265 2 .695
Oral Roberts 15 624 281 0 .690
Miami (Fla.) 15 638 294 3 .684
LSU 15 662 305 5 .684
Georgia Tech 15 639 302 1 .679
Wichita State 15 672 329 0 .671
Stanford 15 600 314 2 .656
Clemson 15 641 338 1 .655
Southern 15 464 246 0 .654
Virginia 15 587 315 3 .650
Tulane 15 600 323 2 .650
Nebraska 15 591 321 2 .648
East Carolina 15 586 321 3 .646
Florida Atlantic 15 581 326 1 .640
Notre Dame 15 574 322 5 .640
Dallas Baptist 15 566 319 1 .639
Kent State 15 564 328 0 .632
College of Charleston 15 556 327 1 .630
Florida 15 593 350 2 .629
Ohio State 15 557 331 1 .627
Oklahoma State 15 565 337 0 .626
Oregon State 15 540 324 0 .625
TCU 15 568 342 0 .624
Texas A&M 15 583 352 3 .623
Southern Miss 15 565 347 0 .620
Mississippi 15 573 355 1 .617
Arkansas 15 572 355 1 .617

Owls Ink Eight In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program signed eight high school standouts in November who will join the team for the 2015 season. The Owls' latest signing class includes four multi-position players who are versatile enough to contribute as both a pitcher and/or position player/hitter. All are from the high school ranks and seven of the eight are from the greater-Houston area who will be able to have their family and hometown fans continue to watch them play games at Rice's Reckling Park. The class includes Rhp/C Willy Amador from Bryan, Texas, infielders Tristan Gray of Missouri City and Dane Myers of Katy, outfielders Khevin Brewer of Richmond and Stone Garrett of Sugar Land, and the Houston trio of OF/Inf Ryan Chandler, Rhp Michael Rodgers, and Rhp/OF Ricardo Salinas.

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