Believe it or not, despite their geographical proximity and national prominence, LSU and Rice do not have a storied history of playing against each other. LSU leads the series all time 14-11, but up until the 2009 Baton Rouge Super Regional, the Owls have had the Tigers' number. LSU is 4-6 against Rice in the NCAA Tournament, but before the 2009 Supers the Tigers went a woeful 0-6 against the other school from Houston in regional and super regional play. Rice eliminated LSU in the 1995 and 2005 Baton Rouge Regionals as well as at home in the 2002 Houston Super Regional. However, LSU is undefeated against Rice in Omaha with wins in 1997 and 2008.
So since we haven't played Rice yet this decade, let's run a refresher on the university. William Marsh Rice University is a private university in Houston founded in 1912 with an enrollment of only 6,623. With a 15.1% admittance rate, it's very selective. The university sits in the southwest of the center of the city, just inside the loop, about four and half miles away from the University of Houston and about three and a half away from Texas Southern. Most importantly, Rice has a Torchy's Tacos right off of campus.
Rice plays at Reckling Park, probably the finest non-power conference ballpark in the nation. A 7,000 plus seater with ample foul territory built in 2000, Rice holds a .797 winning percentage there. But when Wayne Graham took the helm of the Rice ballclub, they played at Cameron Field.
Graham took over in 1992, and since has gone 1111-464, a .705 winning percentage. Under Graham, Rice has won their regular season or conference tournament championship every year since 1996, except in 2009 and this current season, which covers Rice's final year in the Southwest Conference,their entire stretch in the WAC, and now in C-USA with one national championship in 2003 (hence why all DEM RANGS). Under his watch, Rice has made the postseason tournament each and every year dating back to 1997. But Rice hasn't made the trip to Omaha since 2008, and at 80 years old you know Wayne Graham has to be thinking about hanging it up in the near future. His players have to know that and if they really want to send their coach out on a high note, that makes them a dangerous team.
Rice got out to a jumpy start to the season, dropping a home series against Arizona and going 0-3 in the Houston College Classic. After that they pivoted the season, going 21-6 until they ran into a buzzsaw against Southern Miss. The Owls ended the regular season on a five game losing streak, albeit against quality teams. Rice fought their way out of the loser's bracket in the C-USA tournament before falling to Southern Miss in the championship game and come into Baton Rouge with a record of 35-22 and an RPI of 24.
Rice may not be playing gorilla ball, but across the board they're consistent at the dish. Rice takes plenty of pitches, leading to a pretty level number of strikeouts and walks. Rice won't overpower LSU but they can get runners on and play solid ABC baseball which has been proven to be a thorn in LSU's side.
Jon Duplantier is the staff ace, striking out 143 batters on the year while Blake Fox can also blow 'em away. For comparison, this year Alex Lange has only struck out 107 batters. But outside of those two, Rice is a more contact-orientated pitching staff, especially in the relieving core which makes a difficult transition in the sixth and seventh innings. Salinas is the third starter while Amador is the midweek starter likely to come out of the bullpen at some point during the weekend. Glenn Otto serves as the closer for the Owls and he's a mean one on the mound. In 64 innings he's only allowed 13 earned runs while striking out 69 (nice) and he's notched eight saves on his belt.
Despite their adidas-ing, Rice has a really nice set of uniforms and one solid hat.
I'm a big fan of the old English font and navy is a tried and true color for a baseball hat because it goes well with white or grey, which is also Rice's school color. Grade: A.