The Rice Owls Are Two Wins from the College World Series
This is not the best baseball team that Wayne Graham's coached in his years at Rice. This isn't the best of the 19 straight Rice teams to advance into the NCAA postseason, or the best Owls team to go to its tenth Super Regional since 1999, the first year of the Super Regionals. And this team definitely isn't on par with the six Rice teams that have advanced to Omaha and the College World Series.
The Owls are hoping for a return trip to Omaha after this weekend.
But those 19 teams don't matter. What past squads did in the Super Regionals, or in the College World Series, is of no concern. The only thing that matters is what this year's team can do. This team might not have the overall talent of those past squads -- there's no Lance Berkman, Anthony Rendon, Bubba Crosby or Jeff Niemann on this squad -- but this team shares qualities with all of those other great Rice squads, and because of those shared qualities, this Rice Owls team has the ability to make it to Omaha.
If it can get past the Wolfpack of North Carolina State, that is. But for that to happen, it's going to have to have a repeat of the performance it had last weekend when it shocked the number one seed in the Regional (Oregon) and became only the second non-one seed to advance to this year's Super Regionals.
The Owls won two close games last week (3-2 in 11 innings over San Francisco on Friday, and 1-0 over Oregon on Saturday). The team was blown out by Oregon on Sunday when the pitching fell apart, but then came back and demolished Oregon on Monday night. In the wins, the Owls played close to perfect baseball. The pitching excelled, much as it has in all of the team's wins this season, and the offense did just enough to get the wins.
It might be a bit tougher for the Owls this weekend because the Wolfpack are starting Carlos Rodon, one of the best pitchers in college baseball (9-2 record on the season) tonight. In five career postseason appearances, Rodon has given up just 12 hits in 37.2 innings while striking out 10.75 batters per nine innings with a 0.78 ERA. Rice's Graham compares Rodon to Mark Appel, yesterday's number one draft choice of the Houston Astros.