FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
HOUSTON – With no shortage of tough competition and what may prove to be one of the best slate of home games in the country, the Rice Owls’ baseball schedule for the upcoming 2011 season was announced on Friday (Sept. 10).
The 56-game regular season schedule features 32 home games at Reckling Park, including a pair of dynamic three-game home sets against national powerhouse teams from the Pac-10 conference in back-to-back weekends to start the year. Rice opens the 2011 campaign at home with Stanford on Feb. 18-20 followed by Southern California on Feb. 25-27. There are a total of 38 dates in the city of Houston when including games across town at the University of Houston and downtown at Minute Maid Park in the annual College Classic (Mar. 4-6).
Eight of the first ten games are against Pac-10 teams. After facing Stanford and USC, Rice plays a pair of midweek games in Tucson against the University of Arizona on March 1-2. Arizona and Stanford both played in NCAA Regionals last season, two of at least seven Owl opponents that advanced to postseason play in 2010. The 2011 schedule has 14 games against seven NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago. The total number of games against teams coming off a Regional could still increase depending how games for two March tournaments are later arranged. The final schedules of The Houston College Classic and the March 11-13 tournament at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., will be announced at a later time.
Head coach Wayne Graham, who is starting his 20th year at the helm of the Rice baseball program, said that playing as many tough teams as possible is by design. The rugged schedule prepares the team on the field while building an NCAA Ratings Power Index (RPI) that is high enough to garner consideration for national seed in the NCAA Tournament. Playing a tough schedule has helped the Owls host NCAA Regional action eight times in the last nine years and make seven trips to the College World Series over the past 14 years.
“This is a tough schedule that could result in a high RPI,” coach Graham said. “That is our goal, always, because we want to host in the postseason. There are no low RPI teams on the schedule. We’ll help ourselves if we can win our share.
“This is also the type of schedule that can be enjoyed by the fans,” he added. “They can see good teams from different parts of the country and they don’t have to worry about missing a game or series because there’s always another good team coming in, one right after the other. There will be a lot of good teams to watch. I am looking forward to getting the season started.”
With an early home game against longtime rival Lamar (Feb. 22) each of Rice’s first four games is against a 2010 Regional opponent. NCAA teams Texas A&M, Louisiana-Lafayette and Florida International are all single games on the Owls’ home schedule. Rice hosts former Western Athletic Conference rival Louisiana Tech for a three-game series in March. The first Conference USA team to visit Reckling Park is UCF (March 25-27), followed by Marshall, Tulane and Memphis. Crosstown rival and C-USA foe Houston travels to South Main for a pair of non-conference games on March 23/29, the first two of five eventual meetings in the annual Silver Glove Trophy Series. The Owls also have home games against teams from around the region, including familiar foes Sam Houston State, Dallas Baptist, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Stephen F. Austin and Texas State.
The Blue & Gray is on the road for single mid-week games at Texas State, Lamar, Sam Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette. Rice travels to East Carolina, UAB, Houston and Southern Miss to round-out the C-USA road series. The annual C-USA Tournament is set for May 25-28 at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss., the AA minor league home of the Atlanta Braves.
Rice baseball’s fall practices begin on Oct. 4 (Mon.), and last until Nov. 6. The practices are open to the public. Season ticket and single game information will be available soon on the RiceOwls.com ticket page. The full schedule is provided at the above links.