Six Rice players earn all-conference honors
FROM RICE ATHLETICS
On the eve of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship in Pearl, Miss., Rice head coach Wayne Graham was named the C-USA Keith LeClair Coach of the Year and senior Matthew Reckling was selected as the league’s Pitcher of the Year; they headlined a list of Owl baseball award winners announced by the conference office May 22.
A total of six Owl players were recognized for their success on the diamond the day before taking the field in C-USA’s annual weeklong championship tournament. All the award winners, including Graham and Reckling with two of the top honors the league can bestow, were selected on a vote of the conference’s head coaches, sports information directors and a media representative who covers each program.
Rice’s J.T. Chargois (DH/Util.), Jeremy Rathjen (Of.) and Christian Stringer (Inf.) joined Reckling (P) on the C-USA first team, Ford Stainback and Jordan Stephens were named to the league’s all-freshman squad.
In 2012 Graham guided the Owls to a 39-15 overall record, the C-USA regular season championship with a 17-7 league record, and to a No. 4 national ranking heading into this week’s conference tournament. Graham’s Owls have won or shared a total of 17 straight conference titles (including the regular season and/or conference tournament) spanning Rice’s membership in three different leagues. Earlier this season the Owls’ head coach, who is in his 21st season at the helm of the program, was tabbed for induction into the College Baseball Hall of Fame later this summer. Graham was named the Keith LeClair Coach of the Year for the fifth time in seven seasons that Rice has been a C-USA member. The award that is named for the former East Carolina skipper who courageously battled ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) before he died in 2006.
Reckling is a Houston native who emerged as the ace of the Owls’ talented staff. He is tied for the league lead in victories with eight; he averages 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings and has held all hitters to a composite .178 batting average that is the lowest in the league. He was named C-USA Pitcher of the Week three times, more than any other player this season. Reckling is the first Owl to be named the C-USA Pitcher of the Year since Ryne Tacker in 2007.
Chargois was named a first team honoree after making key contributions as both a right-handed pitcher and switch-hitting first baseman/designated hitter. In addition to earning a team-leading eight saves with a 4-1 record and 2.27 ERA, the Sulphur, La., native also batted .317 at the plate. The versatile junior maintained a .414 on-base percentage, drove in 28 runs and scored 22 times.
Rathjen was named to the C-USA first team after making a dramatic comeback from a season-ending injury in 2011. The redshirt junior has started every game this season where he leads the Owls in home runs (9) and doubles (13), and he is second in hitting (.338) and RBI (39).
Junior transfer Stringer made the move to Division I baseball this season with aplomb. The Longview, Tex., native leads the team and is among the C-USA’s best in hitting (.352). In addition to sensational defense at second base, Stringer has scored a total of 53 runs in the 54 games Rice played.
Stainback and Stephens are a pair of Owl true freshmen who have made an immediate impact in their first season playing at the college level. Stephens has made 14 appearances on the mound, where he is 2-3 with a 4.38 ERA. He’s worked his way into eight starts in his first Division I season, including shutout wins at Stanford and against Tennessee. Stainback stormed through the C-USA slate with a .368 average in league games. The shortstop from Dallas has made 30 starts for Rice in his debut season.
Regular season champion Rice had the most first team All-Conference selections with four. Southern Miss led the way with four selections to the All-Freshman team, which included at least one player from eight schools.
The Rice baseball team is 39-15 overall. With the 2012 C-USA regular season title the Owls also clinched the No. 1 seed at the upcoming C-USA Championship Tournament that got under way May 23. The tourney features four days of pool play followed by a single Championship Final May 27.