HOUSTON -- For the third consecutive season, the Rice Owls have earned one of the eight national seeds for the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship, which will be begin play this weekend at 16 sites across the country.
The Owls (42-13) will carry the sixth overall seed into their first round game with Sam Houston State (37-23) at 6:00 on Friday at Reckling Park. Texas (37-20) will meet St John's (41-14) in the regional opener at 2:00 on Friday.
The national top eight seeds are Miami (Fla.) (47-8), North Carolina (46-12), Arizona State (45-11), Florida State (48-10), Cal State Fullerton (37-19), Rice (42-13), LSU (43-16-1) and Georgia (35-21-1).
The Southeastern Conference leads all conferences in the number of teams in the championship field with nine, followed by the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 with six. Conference USA and the Pacific-10 have five teams each, while the Big West has four.
Twenty-six of the 64 teams were not in the field last year. UC Davis (at-large), Dallas Baptist (at-large), Lipscomb (AQ) and Mt. St. Mary's (AQ), all are making the championship for the first time. Columbia last was in the field in 1976, while Rider and Eastern Michigan are in the field for the first time since 1994.
Miami (Fla.) is in the field for the 36th consecutive year, extending its own record. Florida State is making its 31st straight appearance, second all-time. Other long consecutive streaks: Cal State Fullerton (17), Rice (14) and Oral Roberts (11).
Of the 286 championship eligible Division I institutions which sponsor baseball, Florida State has the most Division I wins with 48. Twenty-six other teams won at least 40 Division I contests and all but two, Canisius and Missouri State, are in the field.
Each of the 16 regionals feature four teams, playing a double-elimination format. The regionals are scheduled to be conducted from Friday, May 30, to Monday, June 2 (if necessary). Selection of the eight super regional hosts will be announced on www.ncaa.com, Monday, June 2 at approximately 11 p.m. (ET).
The 62nd Men's College World Series begins play Saturday, June 14, at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska.
Houston Regional At Reckling Park
Fri., May 30
Game 1: Texas vs. St. John's, 2 pm;
Game 2: Rice vs. Sam Houston State, 6 pm;
Sat., May 31
Game 3: Losing teams at 2 pm (elimination game);
Game 4: Winning teams at 6 pm;
Sun., June 1
Game 5: 2 pm (elimination game)
Game 6: 6 pm (possible championship game)
Mon., June 2
Game 7: 6 pm (championship - if necessary)
Catch The Regional On OwlVision FOR FREE!
Every NCAA Regional game from Reckling Park is slated for a live web-broadcast on OwlVision. OwlVision 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 proved to be very popular with fans and alumni living throughout the world and it just got even better for the NCAA Regional at Reckling Park. Normally this is a subscription-based service, but for the NCAA Regional OwlVision is going to do it all for FREE. Information about the service is available on RiceOwls.com.
Every Rice baseball game is broadcast live around the world on the Internet at RiceOwls.com and KTRU.org. For as long as the Owls play in the tournament, the games will be broadcast live on the radio in the Houston area on KTRU (91.7 FM). A direct connection to the audio feed is provided on RiceOwls.com. David Saltzman, broadcaster for Owl baseball, men's basketball and football, has the Rice call of the games in the postseason.
Live Stats On GameTracker
Live play-by-play text and statistics from every Rice game will be posted on RiceOwls.com. Look for the "GT" or GameTracker links on the Rice home page, the Regional info center, the Rice baseball schedule page and the top of each game-advance.
When Facing The Best
The No. 6 national seed may be because Rice is 11-4 in games against nationally-ranked opponents. The Owls have out-hit the ranked foes by 53 points (.273 to .220) and maintained a 2.54 ERA in those 15 games against the country's elite teams.
We Know Who's Dancin'
If you need any authoritative insight on the 2008 NCAA bracket just ask Rice. The Owls have played 28 games against 12 different teams in this year's NCAA Tournament. The Blue & Gray is 18-10 against almost one-fifth of the 64-team field.
14 With 42
Rice clinched its 14th-straight season with at least 40 wins. It's an accomplishment to be sure, but limiting it to just 40 wins short-changes it a little bit. The Owls have in fact won at least 42 games a year in every season since 1995.
14-Straight NCAA Appearances
Rice is making its 14th-consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship, the fourth-longest active streak in Division I. Here is a look at the longest active streaks:
36 Miami (Fla.)
31 Florida State
17 Cal State Fullerton
14 Rice Owls
National Ranking Update • Owls Fifth In USA Today/ESPN
The season began with a wide range of views from the different college baseball media outlets across the nation on how the national rankings should look. Now that the bracket and national seeds are set, the current batch of polls will probably hold until the eight teams arrive in Omaha in a few weeks. This week the poll from ESPN/USA Today has the Owls as high as fifth in the nation. That's even higher than the No. 6 national seed. All the polls have Rice in the Top 9. The most-recent national ranking roll call is as follows...
USA Today/ESPN 5th
Collegiate Baseball 7th
Baseball America 9th
Rice has the seventh-best won-loss percentage (.764, 42-13) of any team in the country. The Owls also are tied for 11th in the nation in Division I wins.
Head Coach Wayne Graham
Four-time national coach of the year and Texas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Graham (Texas, 1970) is in his 17th season at Rice... He is 782-297 with the Owls (477-101 at home, 235-153 in road games and 70-43 at neutral sites). His Rice winning percentage is .725, the best in school history. Another way of looking at Graham's .725 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 117 games in a single year... Graham's record against the teams in the Regional are 25-11 vs. Sam Houston State (17-5 home, 8-6 road), 19-30 vs. Texas (8-11 home, 5-15 road, 6-4 neutral) and 1-1 vs. St. John's (1-1 home)... Under Graham, the Owls clinched another postseason bid in 2008, making 14-straight seasons for Rice to earn an NCAA appearance. 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 the C-USA regular season crowns in 2006, 2007 and now 2008, as well as the C-USA tournament championships in `06 and `07. Rice has advanced into the NCAA tournament in 1995-96-97-98-99-00-01-02-03-04-05-06-07-08... 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 and `08... Rice has made six appearances in the NCAA College World Series under Graham (1997, '99, `02, `03, `06, `07)... 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 Mike Taylor (Prairie View A&M, 1997; eighth year), David Pierce (Houston, 1988; sixth year), Patrick Hallmark (Rice, 1995; third year)... Graham has coached at third base every season he has been at Rice.
1,357 • A Baseball Odyssey
Wayne Graham owns 782 career wins at Rice, but he also has 1,357 victories when including his 11 years at San Jacinto North College where he won five national championships. Graham's overall collegiate record is 1,357-410 in a 27-year career that began in 1981.
Coach Graham announced sophomore Ryan Berry (7-4, 3.10) as the Rice starting pitcher for the first game of the Regional. Berry last started the second game of the C-USA Tournament vs. nationally-ranked East Carolina (May 22) and would have an extra day between his normal Friday starts. The right-hander has been the Owls' exclusive "Friday night pitcher" all season, including non-conference games on the road at Long Beach State on opening day (Feb. 22), against Oklahoma at Minute Maid Park, Michigan State and Winthrop. He started Friday games in Conference USA last season and went on to earn National Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors from Collegiate Baseball Magazine. The Humble, Tex., native leads the team in ERA (3.10), innings pitched (90.0) and strikeouts (80). Berry is second on the team in wins (7) and held opposing hitters to a composite .245 batting average. He fired a complete game, three-hit shutout on the road at Memphis. In a start against NCAA Tournament-bound Southern Miss, he struck out a career-high 13 in 8.1 innings. Against NCAA Tournament-bound Tulane on the road, he pitched 8.0 shutout innings for his 18th career win. He averages 8.0 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per 9.0 innings... Sam Houston State announced its starting pitcher as freshman right-hander Dallas Gallant (9-3, 5.15 ERA).
Graham Headlines Rice's C-USA Award Winners
Coach Graham headlined the lengthy list of Rice's Conference USA award winners with his selection as the Keith LeClair Coach of the Year the league office announced on May 20 in New Orleans, La... Graham and nine of his Owl players, enough to fill out an entire lineup card, were recognized for their success on the diamond the day before taking the field for the tournament. All the award winners, including coach Graham and all-Conference USA First Team selections Ryan Berry (SP) and Diego Seastrunk (Inf.), were named on a vote of the league's head coaches, sports information directors and a media representative from each city... Rice has been a member of Conference USA for three seasons and Graham has been named the league's Coach of the year each Year. Graham led the Owls' to a third consecutive regular season championship and a national ranking that is currently No. 5 in the nation. Rice went 21-3 in C-USA games and is 42-13 overall. The team won 22-of-23 at one point. The Keith LeClair Coach of the Year award is named after the former East Carolina head coach who courageously battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or as it is more commonly known as, Lou Gehrig's Disease. Diagnosed with the disease in 2001, LeClair continued to attend Pirate home games and support ECU baseball until passing away in July, 2006.. Berry and Seastrunk are just two of Graham's pupils to earn individual distinction for their respective 2008 seasons. Jared Gayhart (OF), Chris Kelley (SP), Aaron Luna (OF), Cole St.Clair (RP) and Adam Zornes (C) were named to the all-Conference USA Second Team while Matt Evers (RP) and Matt Hague (Inf.) were named to the league's All-Freshman squad. Rice had the most total all-conference selections with nine while East Carolina had five players earn six awards.
Did You Know?
Since joining Conference USA in 2006 Rice's all-time record in regular season league games is 65-7 (.903).
Three Owls On C-USA All-Academic Team
The Rice trio of Cole St.Clair, Chris Kelley and Jimmy Comerota have all been named to the 2008 Conference USA All-Academic Baseball Team, the league announced May 19... The C-USA All-Academic team consists of student-athletes with a 3.2 cumulative grade point average or better and are a starter or key reserve for their team. The members were voted upon by the league's sports information directors. Rice and Southern Miss both placed three student-athletes on the 14-member all-academic squad to tie for the most from any school... The Rice trio of senior pitchers Chris Kelley and Cole St.Clair and sophomore Jimmy Comerota garnered academic recognition after leading their team to the 2008 C-USA regular season title. Kelley owns a 3.23 ERA in 10 starts for the Owls, picking up wins against nationally-ranked opponents such as Texas and Southern Miss. He was the only player in the conference selected to the District VI academic first team, maintaining a 3.28 GPA in kinesiology... St.Clair posted an 8-2 record with five saves and a 2.88 ERA in 20 appearances. A the three-time C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll selection and national semifinalist for the Lowe's Senior Class Award as the nation's top senior student-athlete, St.Clair graduated from Rice on May10 with a 3.22 GPA as an economics major. He was also the recipient of the 2008 Bob Quin Award, which is given to the most outstanding senior male student-athlete at Rice who exemplifies leadership, academic and athletic excellence... Comerota has made 44 starts at second base for the No. 5 ranked team in the country and appeared in all but one game during this year's championship season. A two-time Commissioner's Honor Roll selection with a 3.25 GPA as an economics/ kinesiology major, Comerota is batting .273 on the year, and .319 against nationally-ranked opponents. He also leads the team with 11 stolen bases and nine sacrifice bunts.
Previous Outing: Owls Fall To East Carolina 4-3 In Second Game Of C-USA Tournament
NEW ORLEANS -- In its most-recent outing Rice could not hold off a middle-inning rally by nationally-ranked East Carolina and fell to the Pirates by the score of 4-3 in an elimination game at the 2008 Entergy Conference USA Championship May 22 in New Orleans, La... Rice took the lead, its first of the tournament, in the top of the second inning. Aaron Luna drew a leadoff walk and Adam Zornes followed with a home run to left-center field. The Blue & Gray then put another run on the board in the third. Doug Simmons started it off with a walk and Jared Gayhart punched a hit through the left side to put runners on the corners. Simmons scored a ground out to make it 3-0... East Carolina used the longball to get two runs back as well as start a rally to take the lead... The Owls had men in scoring position in the fourth, fifth, eighth an ninth innings. The closest the Blue & Gray came was a runner just 90 feet away in the fifth and later ninth, but the team could not convert the opportunities to runs. In the team's last at bat of the ninth, Jimmy Comerota walked and moved to scoring position on a ground out to the right side. He aggressively took third base on a wild pitch, but he did so standing straight-up and while avoiding a tag thanks to a heady indirect route to the base. The team's 2008 conference tournament hopes remained left at third base as the Pirates worked out of the jam to end the game.
Zornes A National Semifinalist For Johnny Bench Award Watch List
WICHITA, Kan. -- Junior Adam Zornes has been named one of 12 national semifinalists for the 2008 Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award delivered by AT&T and Papa John's Pizza, as the top catcher in Division I baseball, the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission announced on May 14... Zornes, a 6-1, 215-pound Houston native, is among an elite group of 12 considered to be the nation's top collegiate catchers in 2008. The Johnny Bench Award winner will be announced at the 11th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 27... Not only has Zornes started 52 of the 55 games for the third-ranked team in the nation, he has rarely come out of a game and caught 446.1 of the team's 495.1 innings (90.1 percent). Offensively the slugger is batting a steady .309 and he leads the team in home runs (11). The standout from nearby St. Thomas High School has 50 RBI and a slugging percentage of .536. Zornes also does something extremely rare in college baseball, and that is he calls the pitches for the entire game. With Zornes calling the game the Owls are 41-11 this season and won the Conference USA regular season title with the best team ERA in the league (3.40). He was drafted by the major leagues as a redshirt sophomore last year, but returned to school where he is an economics major in Rice's accelerated curriculum... The award is named after Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, who was twice selected the Most Valuable Player in the National League and a 14-time All-Star. He won 10 Gold Gloves in his major league career and caught 100 or more games for 13 consecutive seasons. For more information about the Coleman Company - Johnny Bench Award delivered by AT&T and Papa John's Pizza, visit www.wichitasports.com.
Luna Continues Career Climb
Junior outfielder Aaron Luna slugged his ninth home run of the season two weeks ago in New Orleans to continue his career climb in the Rice record books. The round-tripper was the 38th of his career and the Southlake, Tex., star now needs just one more to move into a tie for fifth place on Rice's all-time list with Jay Knoblauh (39 career hr), a 1999 inductee into the Rice Athletics Hall of Fame.