Fall Report: Rice
Rice head coach Wayne Graham didn’t like how his program’s fall workouts began, but is pleased with where they ended things and is looking forward to the finished product in February.
The Owls are coming off yet another good campaign, but one that Graham steers well away from calling great. Rice had issues establishing consistency throughout the season. But, even with sketchy defense and the other inconsistencies, it still managed to finish the year with a 37-22 overall record, 22-8 mark in Conference USA, and of course, a trip to the Houston Regional title game against Louisiana-Lafayette, while also eliminating rival Houston along the way.
Many would consider that a gold standard type of season, but not the Owls. Though Graham’s club lost some key pieces from last year’s team, there’s some reasons for optimism moving forward. Rice must replace a host of talented arms, including Jordan Stephens, Austin Orewiler, Kevin McCanna and Matt Ditman. It also must replace three key hitters in Ford Stainback, Kirby Taylor and John Clay Reeves. Replacing cogs like those seems like a daunting task, but Graham feels like the talent is in place to do just that.
“You know, I was a little worried early on this fall, but I felt like our guys got better near the end of the fall, and really finished workouts pretty strong,” Graham said. “We were going through a situation where we weren’t using many pitchers because they had pitched a lot over the summer, while we had some other guys out of commission as well.
“Everything kind of came together at the end of the fall, and that was great to see,” he continued. “We have the possibility of being pretty solid in the spring. I believe we’re going to be a little better, pretty solid with the guys we have coming back. But, we also have to stay healthy and not get hurt for that to the happen.”
The Owls didn’t have a clean fall, but there’s somewhat of a reason for that. Rice didn’t have four players for all of the fall for non-baseball reasons, including talented and versatile position players Ryan Chandler and Tristan Gray, along with righthander Ricardo Salinas, who could be in the weekend rotation. All three went to a junior college this fall, but will be eligible to play in the spring.
The big story of the fall was the return of junior righthander Jon Duplantier.
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