Rice Opens C-USA Tournament Wednesday

May 22, 2017

E-mail baseball SID John Sullivan
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May 24 (Wed.) 9 am; # 6 Rice vs. # 3 Florida Atlantic
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May 25 (Thurs.) opponent & links tba

Rice Competes At C-USA Championship; Owls Play Wednesday at 9 AM
The Rice baseball team (27-29 overall and 16-14 in Conference USA action) earned the No. 6 seed of The First, A National Banking Association C-USA Championship beginning this Wednesday through Sunday (May 24-28) in Biloxi, Miss. The Championship will be held at MGM Park, the minor league home of the Milwaukee Brewers' AA affiliate Biloxi Shuckers. The event 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 next week at 16 regional sites across the country.

Rice Meets Florida Atlantic In C-USA's Opening Game
Rice plays No. 3 seed Florida Atlantic (33-19-1 overall, 18-12 C-USA) on Wednesday at 9 am. The league's Rice-FAU events are meetings of Owls-v-Owls... The Blue & Gray then face either two-seed Old Dominion (36-19, 19-11) or seven seed FIU (31-25, 15-15) on Thursday at either 9 am (loser's bracket) or 4 pm (winner's bracket). The Championship Final of the 22nd annual tournament will be just one game on Sunday beginning at 1 pm.

Watch Early Tournament Action On ESPN3
Every game of the tournament before Sunday's Championship Final is scheduled for a live broadcast on ESPN3. The Championship Final is set for a live telecast by CBS Sports Network.

Play-By-Play Audio On The Web
Every Rice baseball game is scheduled for a live audio broadcast on the Internet at Tune-in to the broadcast's pregame show 15 minutes before first pitch. J.P. Heath is in his ninth season as the voice of the Owls.

Follow The Tweeting Rice Owls
The official Rice baseball Twitter account is @RiceBaseball while the Rice Athletics department is @RiceAthletics. Twitter is perhaps the fastest way to get weather-related changes to the schedule/updated start times.

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

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 26th season at Rice. The 2017 campaign marks his 38th year as a collegiate head coach... He is now 1,141-495 with the Owls (676-187 at home, 362-236 on the road and 103-72 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .697, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .697 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 113 games in a single year... Graham is 10-3 vs. FAU (6-3 home, 3-0 road, 1-0 neutral), 7-7 vs. Old Dominion (5-1 home, 1-5 road, 1-1 neutral), 16-5 vs. FIU (7-3 home, 8-1 road, 1-1 neutral)... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2016, making 22-straight seasons for Rice to earn an NCAA appearance. The Blue & Gray has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13-14-15-16. 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, 2014 and 2015, as well as the C-USA tournament championships in `06, `07, `09, `11, `13 and `14... 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 head coaches to have played in the major leagues (N.Y. Mets in 1963, Philadelphia in 1964), Graham is aided by assistant coaches Clay Van Hook (Texas, 2008; sixth year), John Pope (Rice, 1990, Jones College; 1st year), and Scott Shepperd (Concordia, 2007; fifth year)... On game days Van Hook coaches at third base while Shepherd coaches at first.

1,716 Collegiate Wins • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 1,141 Division I wins at Rice, but his career victories tally to 1,716 when you include his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall "collegiate record" is 1,716-608 in a 35-year coaching career that began in 1981.

Probable Starting Pitcher
Coach Graham will announce the starting pitchers for this week's games at a later time.

DiCaprio On Bobby Bragan Slugger Award Watch List
Sophomore catcher Dominic DiCaprio has been added to the watch list for the Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award. The award is based on performance at the plate, academics and personal integrity. The winner of the 2017 award will be announced on June 12 and honored at a gala in the fall. This season DiCaprio leads the Owls in hitting (.369) and on-base percentage (.445), and he is second in home runs (5) and RBI (42). The Coral Springs, Fla., native has also reached base in a season-best 22-straight games heading into the C-USA Championship.

Here's Who's Hot
Graduate transfer Darryn Sheppard went 10-for-21 (.476) with two home runs and four doubles for a .952 slugging percentage in the Owls' four games last week. He has also tallied nine RBI and scored seven times in the current stretch... Shortstop Ford Proctor went 5-for-11 (.455) with a home run and a double (.818 slugging percentage) over the weekend at UAB. He also patiently drew six walks for a .667 on-base percentage in the last three games... Junior third baseman Dane Myers is now 10-for-his-last-23 (.435) with a home run and three doubles for a .696 slugging percentage. He also has seven RBI, seven runs scored, three steals and a .519 on-base percentage in the last five games... Veteran Charlie Warren is 9-for-his-last-22 (.409), but he also has two home runs and a double for a .727 slugging percentage. Warren has driven-in eight runs and scored five times in the last five games... Keep an eye on right-handed hitting DH Andrew Dunlap, who is now 13-for-his-last-32 (.406) with five home runs for an .875 slugging percentage. The Houston native also has 13 RBI, 14 runs scored, and a sac bunt in his last 15 games played. He also has ten walks for a .548 on-base percentage... Centerfielder Ryan Chandler is getting hot at the right time, going 3-for-10 (.300) with a home run and a double (.700 slugging percentage) in the final two games at UAB. He also had a pair of walks for a .417 on-base percentage in the final two games at UAB.

Winning Is Always In Fashion
For the fashion-minded, Rice's 2017 W-L records while wearing the various uniforms is as follows:
9-7 in all-white
5-4 in blue `Rice' jersey (with pinstripe pants)
7-6 in gray `birds' jersey
5-6 in all pinstripes
1-3 in blue Cuba Tour jersey
0-3 in gray `Rice' jersey

Schwarz Named To C-USA All-Academic Team
BILOXI, Miss. -- Rice sophomore Brent Schwarz has been named to the 2017 InTouch Credit Union Conference USA Baseball All-Academic Team, the league office announced on Monday, May 22... Schwarz is one of just 13 student-athletes C-USA recognized Monday for balancing play on the baseball field with academic success. The right-handed pitcher in his second year with the Rice program has worked his way into ten relief appearances against the likes of TCU, Texas, Dallas Baptist, Pepperdine, and Charlotte. The Boerne, Texas, native has posted nine strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work, all while maintaining a 4.14 grade point average as a Mechanical Engineering major. Not only is Schwarz a two-time C-USA Academic Medalist and member of the C-USA Academic Honor Roll, he has twice been named to the Rice University President's Honor Roll.

Last Time Out: Owls Slip At Rain-Soaked UAB, 9-4 In 8 Innings
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Rice baseball team battled for four late runs in the finale of the Conference USA series Saturday at UAB, but unrelenting lightning stormed into the Birmingham area to end the contest with the Blazers claiming a 9-4 win after 7.5 innings... Because of other results around the league Saturday neither the weather-shortened outcome nor different Rice result would have changed the Owls' seed at The First, A National Banking Association C-USA Championship... Rice finished the regular season portion of its 2017 schedule going 14-4 for an overall record of 27-29. The Blue & Gray posted a 16-14 conference mark after beginning league play with a 4-11 ledger. UAB finished its year at 24-31 overall and 9-21 in C-USA... UAB opened Saturday's scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Rice issued a walk with the bases-loaded to force in the first run. With the bases still loaded, Brewer Hicklen then stole home for a 2-0 advantage... The Blazers then added two more runs in the third, four in the sixth and one in the seventh to build a 9-0 lead. Where UAB held the nine-run margin on the scoreboard both teams were an identical 7-7 in the hits column after seven complete frames... Rice rallied for four runs in the top of the eighth off the Blazer bullpen. A single, hit batsman and walk loaded the bases for Tristan Gray. The junior from Houston punched a base hit through the right side to score two. Darryn Sheppard then singled to reload the stations. Kendall Jefferies reached on a fielder's choice to drive in a run, but a UAB error on the play plated one more to cut the margin to five, 9-4... UAB was able to end the Rice threat, but neither squad could anything about the threatening weather. The game entered a lightning delay as the Blazers were about to bat in the bottom of the eighth. Both teams waited out the holding pattern with the tarp on the field. The contest was eventually called a final score in 8-innings... Rice finished with a 10-9 lead in hits. Sheppard, Gray and Ryan Chandler all collected two hits. A total of five Rice pitchers had a chance to see some action heading into the C-USA tournament, and the group combined for nine strikeouts in 7.0 innings.

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 six-of-eleven times and were second on two occasions (most recently as last year). Here's a closer look at the Blue & Gray's C-USA tournament history. (Year, Finish, Record)
2006, 1st, 4-0 2012, ---, 1-2
2007, 1st, 4-1 2013, 1st, 4-0
2008, ---, 0-2 2014, 1st, 4-1
2009, 1st, 4-0 2015, ---, 0-2
2010, 2nd, 3-1 2016, 2nd, 3-2
2011, 1st, 3-1

This & That
Rice enters the C-USA Tournament with an RPI of No. 60 in the nation. The Owls were also listed as having the 9th-toughest schedule in the nation according to meanwhile ranked the Owls' 2017 slate as the 16th-hardest in Division I. When recognizing the team's tough schedule, also consider that the Owls have six one-run loses and been without preseason all-conference pitcher Ricardo Salinas due to a season-ending injury... Since a game at Texas A&M two months ago (March 21), the Rice offense has averaged 10.7 hits per game and batted .304 as a team... On May 19 (Friday at UAB) the Owls also had their most home runs in a single game (seven) since blasting that many at home against Nevada in a Western Athletic Conference game in March of 2005... The Blue & Gray has won each of the last seven games in which the team has hit a home run... In 30 home games this season Rice averaged more than 2,400 fans per game... Senior Charlie Warren is one of only two Owl players in the last four years to collect five hits in a single game, and Warren has done it twice. Saturday against UAB Warren tallied his 218th career hit, the highest total among Rice's active players... Junior Ryan Chandler has started every game in centerfield since the start of his freshman year in 2015, a streak of 177-straight games... After just two steals in the team's first 14 games, the Owls have now swiped 34 bases in the last 42 games... Junior Dane Myers has registered a new career-high with his team-leading 13 steals. Myers also leads the team with five triples. A sixth triple would be the most by an Owl since 2010... The Blue & Gray is hitting a combined .363 (87-for-240) in the first inning, and that is also the squad's best inning for scoring runs (57 runs in 56 games)... Junior right-hander Glenn Otto reached 208 career strikeouts in 159.1 career innings. Earlier the Spring, Texas, native notched his 16th career save against Middle Tennessee for the fifth-highest career total in school history. He needs just one more save to tie first round draft pick and former major leaguer David Aardsma for fourth place with 17 saves... Through the first 14 starts of his collegiate career true freshman Matt Canterino is averaging 10.1 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. The rookie posted double-digit strikeouts in three-straight outings from March 4-17 (Pepperdine, Stanford and Old Dominion). The last Owl to do that was eventual major leaguer Jeff Niemann in the national championship season of 2003 when he fanned ten in games against Wichita State, Houston and Southwest Missouri State.

2017 All-Silver Glove Trophy Honorees
Led by senior Charlie Warren as the series' Most Outstanding Player, a total of six Owls were named to the annual All-Silver Glove Team. Warren led all players with five hits, going 5-for-12 (.417) with a pair of doubles, three RBI and a stolen base in the season-long three-game series against the crosstown rival Cougars. The remaining players on the 2017 All-Silver Glove Team included Dominic DiCaprio, Kendal Jefferies, Grayson Hurdsman, Corey Julks, Dane Myers, Ford Proctor, Jake Scheiner, Nick Slaughter, Jared Triolo, Connor Wong and Dayne Wunderlich.

New Kid On The Block
Houston area native Darryn Sheppard joined the Rice baseball program in January 2017 as a graduate student of Global Affairs. He played the 2014-2016 seasons at Baylor and graduated with a degree in Business Administration. Sheppard owns one year of collegiate eligibility after playing in more than 140 games with 132 Division I starts. He slugged 14 career home runs with 76 runs scored, 63 RBI and 12 steals in three seasons as an outfielder/first baseman in the Big 12 Conference. His solid 2016 season featured a .294 batting average, a .480 slugging percentage and a team-leading eight home runs in 52 starts. The Sugar Land, Texas, native clubbed two homers in a Big 12 road game at Oklahoma last season and led the Bears with 11 games with two or more RBI. He finished third on the squad with 15 multi-hit games in 2016, and was the only Bear to record five hits in a single game.

National Postseason Streak At 22-Straight, Looking For 23 In 2017
Rice baseball's 22-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament is the nation's fourth-longest streak in NCAA history. Each of the top four streaks of making the NCAA Tournament are all of the active variety. In 2016 Miami (Fla.) made the field for the 44th-consecutive year, extending its own record, followed by Florida State (39) and Cal State Fullerton (25).

Owls Ink Nine In Early Signing Period
The Rice baseball program has signed nine high school standouts in the early period who will join the team for the 2018 season. 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.

Owls Defeat Cuban Professional Team Last Fall
ARTEMISA, Cuba -- On Nov. 25, 2016, the Rice pitching duo of Dane Myers and Addison Moss combined to hold Cuban League foe Artemisa to no runs on just four hits when the Owls claimed a 4-0 overseas victory in its first and only game on its international tour last fall... Myers was sound and solid scattering two singles and two walks with five strikeouts over 6.0 innings against the older and professional Cuban players. The junior from Katy, Texas, retired seven of the first eight batters he faced. When the first Artemisa batter reached on a free pass, the Cazadores' dangerous slugging first-baseman Juan Rodriguez, Myers picked him off first with crafty move that seemed to spark Rice on offensive side in the top of the very next inning... Dayne Wunderlich was hit by a pitch and tried to hustle to third on Myers' one-out single into centerfield. Wunderlich was retired on a strong, veteran throw by Yuan Moreno, but Myers alertly dashed up to second on the play to keep a runner in scoring position. Sophomore Ford Proctor followed with an RBI single into left and los Buhos (the Owls) were on the board 1-0... Rice was back on the offensive when senior Charlie Warren led off the fifth with a hit to left center and a steal of second base. He went to third on a Wunderlich single and scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead... After the traditional Cuban sixth-inning stretch, the Owls added a little more insurance in the seventh. Proctor stroked a two-out double to left and with first base open Artemisa elected to intentionally walk Dominic DiCaprio. Ryan Chandler singled-home Proctor, and a wild throw from the outfield allowed DiCaprio to come home and stretch the margin to 4-0... That was now proving to be more than enough room. True freshman Addison Moss started the game at first base and switched positions in the field with Myers after the sixth. The right-hander from Conroe, Texas, kept the shutout intact and earned a save with 3.0 innings of two-hit relief where he allowed two singles and without any walks and a strikeout... "The experience of coming here has already been so beneficial, the game today was just icing on the cake," said Rice head coach Wayne Graham, who was making his return to Cuba since his minor league playing season at AAA Buffalo in 1960. "We've just been treated so well I know the players will remember this trip and this particular game very fondly. After the big (pregame) ceremony they had and all, we were maybe a little nervous at the very start," Graham explained. "When we just relaxed and started playing, we played really well. We finished with 11 hits and Dane was sensational like we know he can be."... Proctor and Wunderlich paced the Owls with three-hits each, and Myers had two hits in addition to his win on the mound... The Owls were originally scheduled to play five exhibition games on its educational and cultural tour of the previously `closed' island nation last November, but the death of longtime lead Fidel Castro (when the team was in Havana) forced a cancellation of the four remaining games. The Owl players, however, continued to make the rest of its itinerary destinations at various landmarks and museums.

Rice's 20-Straight Conference Titles From 1996-2015
Rice saw it's streak of winning 20-straight conference titles come to an end in 2016. The Owls had won or shared a total of 20-straight conference championships (including either regular season and/or conference tournament titles) dating back to 1996. The streak covered membership in three different leagues beginning with the Southwest Conference (1996), to nine seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1997-2005) and now ten C-USA titles from 2006-2015. Here is a closer look at Rice's title run the last 21 years:

YearConferenceRegular SeasonConf. Tourney
2015C-USA1sttied 7th
2013C-USAtied 1st1st
2012C-USAtied 1sttied 5th
2008C-USA1sttied 7th
2005WAC1stno tourney
2004WAC1stno tourney
2003WAC1stno tourney
2002WAC1stno tourney
2001WAC1stno tourney
2000WACtied 1stno tourney
1998WAC1st South Div.1st
1997WAC1st South Div.1st
1996SWCtied 6th1st

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 18 years. Here's a closer look at the country's winningest programs from 1999-2016 (note: this listing will not be updated to include games played in 2017):

Florida St.8763211.732
South Carolina8263550.699
North Carolina7973461.697
Miami (Fla.)7823443.694
Cal State Fullerton7753470.691
Costal Carolina7693490.688
Oral Roberts7333440.681
Arizona St.7083352.678
Georgia Tech7463771.664
East Carolina6973924.640
Florida Atlantic6903892.639
Texas A&M7184083.637
Oregon St.6593751.637
Oklahoma St.6943970.636
Col. of Charleston6763872.636
Kent State6753870.636
DBU (11 years)4092360.634
Ohio St.6663992.625
Southern Miss6774101.623
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