June 2, 2017
Good day from Baton Rouge. It feels a bit like déjà vu today with the Owls playing in the same city in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA baseball tournament as 2016. Even three of the four teams — Rice, Louisiana State University (LSU) and Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU) — are the same as last year. AND, weather could also be a factor this weekend.
Before we get into a rundown for today, if you haven’t done so already, bookmark Athletics’ 2017 Rice Baseball NCAA Central website. And if you haven’t had a chance yet, check out this morning’s column by Brian T. Smith in the Houston Chronicle. Smith profiles head coach Wayne Graham on the front page of the Sports section. In it, Graham said that this season has been his most difficult since taking over the program in 1992, due to the difficult start to the season and some of the team’s play, especially defensively; however, Graham said to Smith:
“We’re still playing, and we’re surviving. The word ‘survive’ is what really got into their heads each day. It got to the point where each game was surviving. And you know, it’s almost fun to think, ‘Hey, I’m going out there today to fight for my life, the life of my team.'”
In that same vein, Chuck Pool, senior sports information director, has a piece online today noting that when Rice reached a critical moment in the 2017 season, seniors Charlie Warren and Dayne Wunderlich suggested a simple remedy: “One at-bat at a time.” From the story:
“We could say that we were better than this as much as we wanted, but at the end of the day, we had to play like it,” Wunderlich said. “We needed to just go out on the field and play as hard as we could every game and try to play up to our own abilities. Not try to do too much. We evaluated ourselves and looked deep into ourselves and each guy said this is what you need to do: Do your own part for the team and we will be successful.”
Like last year, Rice opens the tournament against Southeastern Louisiana in the second game at the Baton Rouge Regional. In 2016, besides battling each other, Rice and SLU were battling the weather. The Friday game last year was postponed to Saturday due to rain. This year, the home team LSU Tigers are slated to open against Texas Southern at 2:30 p.m. today, which gives the Owls the morning to prepare for tonight’s 7 p.m. (or no sooner than 55 minutes after the preceding game) “opener.”
Of course, we kid. Players just so happened to plate his table up, and we took advantage of a good SnapChat photo. We will be posting SnapChats regularly throughout the tournament. Within the app, follow “Rice Athletics.”
Okay, into our own game-day prep. Knock on wood: The weather looks like it will cooperate for today’s games. The chance of rain from 2 to 10 p.m. runs from 15 to 30 percent. The rain could become more of an issue Saturday and Sunday.
Graham has announced that true freshman Matthew Canterino will take the mound against SLU. Last night Pool posted a great piece on Athletics’ R-Blog titled “Canterino’s emergence sparks Owls to Baton Rouge Regional.” An excerpt from the story:
“The freshman from Southlake stepped onto the mound at MGM Park, with winds blowing toward the gulf shores beyond the outfield fences, and stared down a potent FAU lineup averaging nearly seven runs per game, holding the C-USA’s eastern Owls to just four hits, while fanning a career-high 11 in a career-best 7.2 innings of work, a crucial component to the Owls’ weekend master plan.”
Typically in the regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament, a team would face an unfamiliar foe. However, Rice knows SLU well now. Rice faced SLU in two games last year in the regional, winning them both, but this year SLU took two out of three games from Rice at Reckling Park.
The Louisiana Radio Network posted the following quick scouting report on the SLU Lions:
“(SLU is) 36-20. Finished the regular season winning 12 of their last 15. SLU has six victories against top 50 RPI teams. (They) might have lost some momentum with their play in the Southland Tournament, where they went 1-2.“The Lions have three players with 10 or more home runs, Taylor Schwaner, Carson Crites and Ryan Byers. This team is also speedy on the base paths with 110 steals.“They need ace pitcher Mac Sceroler to get back on his game. The junior right-hander from Denham Springs has nine wins of the year, but he’s given up 13 earned runs in his last two starts.”
Against the 2017 field
If you want to find out about almost one-seventh of the entire NCAA Tournament field, just ask Rice. This year the Owls have already played 23 games against nine different teams in The Dance. The Blue & Gray won a total of 10 games against programs in the current 64-team NCAA Tournament field. In fact, each of the Owls’ first nine games to start the year (versus the likes of Texas, Dallas Baptist, Southeastern Louisiana and Texas Christian University) all went on to make the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s who’s hot
Veteran Charlie Warren has a nine-game hitting streak where he is 16 for his last 35 (.457), but he also has two home runs and a double for a .657 slugging percentage. Warren has driven in 10 runs, scored eight times and stolen two bases in the last nine games. Junior third baseman Dane Myers also extended his hitting streak to nine games and is now 16 for his last 41 (.390) with two home runs and three doubles for a .610 slugging percentage. He has 11 RBI, 11 runs scored, three steals and a .444 on-base percentage in the last nine games. Keep an eye on Dayne Wunderlich, who is 9 for his last 23 (.391) with three doubles, five runs scored, two sacrifice bunts and a stolen base over the last seven games. In the C-USA Tournament he also had a dramatic leaping catch above the fence to rob a home run away versus Florida Atlantic University. Junior second baseman Tristan Gray is 7 for his last 19 (.368) with two homers and a double for a .737 slugging percentage. He has five RBIs, four runs scored and a .429 on-base percentage over the last five games.
How to watch or listen to tonight’s game versus the SLU Lions:
7 p.m. or 55 minutes after the completion of the prior game at the Baton Rouge Regional.
Watch the game on the Watch ESPN app or online at espn3.com.
Live stats will be available at http://www.ncaa.com/game/baseball/d1/2017/06/02/rice-southeastern-la.
And the Rice radio broadcast will be available at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/rice/.
This post may be updated with more information just prior to game time.