2009 NCAA Regional Preview: Houston

Ryan Berry and the Rice Owls host the Houston Regional at Reckling Park. (ESPN Photo)

Ryan Berry and the Rice Owls host the Houston Regional at Reckling Park. (ESPN Photo)

The Rice Owls will host the Houston Regional at Reckling Park after finishing in second place in the Conference USA regular season and winning the Conference USA Tournament title.  Kansas State, the two seed, meets Xavier, the three seed, at 2 p.m. CT on Friday.  Following that game, host Rice will take the field against Sam Houston State, the four seed.  The two teams split during their two regular season meetings, with the home team winning both affairs.

The first elimination game is slated for 2 p.m. CT on Saturday with the winner’s bracket championship to follow at 7 p.m. CT.  The loser’s bracket championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, and the first championship game is a 7 p.m. CT start time that same evening.  If necessary, the final game of the regional will be at 6 p.m. CT on Monday.

(1) Rice (39-15)

The Owls earned a regional host after winning the Conference USA Tournament title.  As a team, Rice is hitting .317 with 61 homeruns, and the team has a total of 70 steals.  Anthony Rendon, the freshman sensation, leads the Owls in hitting with a .375 average, 19 homeruns, and 64 runs batted in.  Short stop Rick Hague leads the team in steals with 11.  For the year, the Rice offense averages 7.3 runs per contest.

The Rice pitching staff features one of the better one-two punches in the nation.  Although both players had to fight through injuries this season, Ryan Berry and Mike Ojala seem to be back and healthy for a post-season run.  Berry is a perfect 7-0 in 11 appearances, 9 starts, with a 1.89 ERA in 66.2 innings. Ojala has made 10 starts this season, compiling a 4-0 record with a 1.79 ERA in 55.1 innings pitched.  Taylor Wall, a freshman left hander, is the third starter for the Owls.  Wall leads the team in starts with 14, innings pitched with 85, and strikeouts with 73.  He’s put together a 6-5 record with a 3.81 ERA on the season.  Lefty Matt Evers leads the team in relief appearances with 29 and has a 6.09 ERA in 44.1 innings.  Mark Haynes has 21 appearances out of the bullpen and through 45 innings of work has a 4.20 ERA.  Jordan Rogers serves as the Rice closer, and the right hander is 8-3 with a 4.47 ERA and 7 saves in 52.1 innings.

Rice has committed 64 errors on the year, and the team has a .970 fielding percentage.  The Owls are allowing opponents to score 4.9 runs per game on the year.  At Reckling Park this season, Rice has a 20-7 record.

(2) Kansas State (41-16-1)


The Wildcats finished the Big 12 regular season in fourth place after posting a 14-11-1 record in league play.  Kansas State is batting .319 on the season with 53 homeruns and has stolen an amazing total of 146 bases.  Carter Jurica has a team leading .362 average and is second on the team in steals with 23.  Jordan Cruz leads the Wildcats with 10 homeruns, and Jason King is tops on the team in runs batted in with 58 this year.  Dane Yelovich leads the team with 24 swiped bases in 35 attempts.  On the season, the Wildcats average about 7.4 runs per game.

The Kansas State pitching staff has a 4.23 team earned run average, headed by stud righty A.J. Morris on the mound.  Morris has a team high 15 starts and has compiled a 13-1 record with a 1.84 ERA and a team high 98 strikeouts in 107.1 innings of work.  Left hander Lance Hoge has 14 starts on the year for the Wildcats and sports a 5-4 record with a 4.36 ERA in 66 innings of work.  Senior right hander Todd Vogel has 14 appearances, 11 starts, and is 4-1 with a 5.04 ERA in 50 innings.  Sophomore lefty Thomas Rooke, 5-1 with 4 saves and a 3.96 ERA in 30 relief appearances and 50 innings, and freshman right hander James Allen, 2-1 with 5 saves and a 4.37 ERA in 23 relief appearances and 35 innings of work, share the closing duties for the Wildcats.

The Kansas State defense has made 61 errors and is fielding at a .973 fielding percentage.  The Wildcats are giving up an average of 4.7 runs per contest.  The team is 12-7-1 in away games and 5-2 in neutral games on the season.


(3) Xavier (38-19)

The Musketeers earned a post-season bid by winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament.  Xavier is hitting .310 on the season with 46 homeruns and has 105 stolen bases on the season.  Ben Thomas, a two-way player, leads the team in hitting with a .355 average, 16 homeruns, and 64 runs batted in on the year.  Sophomore John McCambridge leads the team with an amazing 42 stolen bases in 48 attempts.  Senior Adam Pasono has yet to be thrown out on the bases this year, going a perfect 20-20 in stolen base attempts.  The Musketeers are scoring about 7.4 runs per game on the season.

Lefty Danny Rosenbaum leads the team in starts with 14, innings pitched with 82, and strikeouts with 68.  He has a 5-5 record with a 5.49 ERA, and opponents are hitting .301 against him.  Nathan Mutsch is second on the team in starts with 11, and the red shirt freshman righty has compiled a 2-1 record with a 5.81 ERA in 48 innings of work.  Thomas, the lefty two-way star, has 10 starts and a 5-1 record with a 6.47 ERA in 48.2 innings on the bump.  Right handed reliever Brett Greenwell leads the team in appearances with 30 and has a 4.45 ERA over 56.2 innings.  Sophomore Brian Muransky has made 26 relief appearances and has tossed 60.2 innings while posting a 4.60 ERA.  Jordan Conley is the closer for Xavier.  For the season, the senior righty is 1-1 with 13 saves and a 2.39 ERA in 26.1 innings over 24 appearances.

The Musketeers have committed 65 errors on the year, for a .971 fielding percentage.  Opponents average 6.1 runs per game against Xavier this season, and the team is 13-12 in away games and 11-3 in neutral site contests.

(4) Sam Houston State (36-22)

The Bearkats extended their season with a Southland Conference Tournament championship.  On the year, the team is hitting at a very impressive .331 clip with 47 homeruns and have stolen 56 stolen bases.  Senior Nick Zaleski leads the team in hitting with an outrageous .425 batting average and 57 runs batted in.  Senior catcher Mark Wyatt has a team high 14 bombs, and Braeden Riley leads the squad with 11 steals in 16 attempts.  The Bearkats average 7.6 runs per contest.

On the mound, the Bearkats have a team ERA of 5.06.  Lefty Brent Powers and right hander Jacob Howard both lead the team with 12 starts each.  Powers is 3-2 with a 4.28 ERA in 69.1 innings.  Howard is 4-4 with a 4.89 ERA in 70 innings on the mound.  Freshman righty Sean Weatherford and right hander Dallas Gallant have split time between starting and coming out of the bullpen.  Weatherford, who has split time between starting and relieving, leads the team in innings with 74.2, saves with 4, wins with 8, and strikeouts with 70.  He’s compiled an 8-5 record with a 3.62 ERA, and opponents hit .255 against him.  Gallant, who has 15 appearances including 9 starts, is 4-4 with a 6.52 ERA and 1 save in 69 innings pitched.  Righty Matt Shelton, 7-0 with 2 saves and a 1.86 ERA in 38.2 innings over 21 relief appearances, and lefty Will Skelton, 2-2 with 2 saves and a 2.63 ERA in 27.1 innings over 18 relief appearances, provide solid relief for the Bearkat pitching staff.  Senior right hander Guillaume Duguay, 2-1 with 1 save and a 3.86 ERA over 31.1 innings over 19 relief apperances, is also a mainstay out of the Sam Houston State bullpen.

Sam Houston State has committed 64 errors on the season for a .972 fielding percentage.  The Bearkats pitching staff and defense are allowing opponents to score about 6.1 runs per game.  The team is 12-7 in away games this season and 3-1 in neutral site games.

Prediction:
1. Rice
2. Kansas State
3. Sam Houston State
4. Xavier