You don’t have to go very far to catch a great matchup early in the college baseball season.
The 17th ranked Rice baseball team will open its 2013 season Friday at 4:30 p.m. with a three-game home weekend series at Reckling Park against seventh-ranked Stanford.
The Cardinal is just one of the teams on the Owls’ rugged home schedule this year. Rice welcomes a host of talented opponents, including California, Dallas Baptist, Harvard, Lamar, Louisiana Tech, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Texas State, Texas Tech and Texas-San Antonio. Conference USA rivals that visit Reckling Park this season are University of Central Florida, Tulane, Marshall and Memphis.
Under the direction of head coach Wayne Graham, who is now in his 22nd season, Rice returns four of nine starters in the batting order and a host of veteran pitchers from last year’s team that went 41-19. The Owls also have a highly touted group of incoming freshmen players making their Division I debut this spring.
“We’re all enthusiastic; we all feel like we have a good team, a team without any real holes,” Graham said. “We feel like we have a good Division I player at every position and even maybe a little excess. We like the pitching, we like the chemistry; I think we’re going to have a good ball club.”
Rice baseball has won at least 40 games in each of the last 18 seasons and have won or shared 17-consecutive conference championships (including regular season and/or conference tournament titles). The Owls won the 2012 Conference USA championship on the last day of the regular season and advanced to NCAA Regionals for an 18th straight year.
With three preseason all-conference players, including the duo of junior Austin Kubitza and senior Christian Stringer as the 2013 preseason pitcher and player of the year, respectively, the Rice baseball team was picked to finish first in the league in the annual Conference USA head coaches’ poll.
With the loss of Rice veteran pitchers Tyler Duffey, J.T. Chargois, Matthew Reckling and Taylor Wall, Kubitza knows that he’s now in a leadership role.
“It doesn’t change much pitching-wise. I still have to go out there and give it my all and help the team win,” Kubitza said. “But off the field, it’s more of a leader role to make sure everyone know what needs to be done (to prepare).”
The Blue and Gray are ranked 17th in the country in the USA Today Coaches Poll, 18th by both Baseball America and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers and 20th, according to Collegiate Baseball magazine.
Rice’s Reckling Park has been selected as the site of the 2013 Conference USA Baseball Championship. The winner of the May 22-26 postseason tournament will receive an automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Reckling Park was the site of the C-USA Championship once before in 2006, the Owls’ very first year as a C-USA member. Rice won the tournament playing at home that year and have gone on claim the title a total of four times in the last seven years with one runner-up finish.
Rice’s 2003 National Championship team will be recognized Saturday as part of the team’s 10-year reunion. Single-game and season tickets are available through the Rice Athletics Ticket Office in Tudor Fieldhouse by calling 713-522-OWLS or online at https://oss.ticketmaster.com/aps/rice/EN/buy/browse?i=154.
The image of coach Graham and the 2013 schedule above is available to print or save as computer wallpaper. Click on the image or go to http://www.riceowls.com/multimedia/rice-wallpaper.html to download.