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SUPER REGIONAL PREVIEW: TEXAS A&M AT RICE
June 5, 2008

SCS.comNumber six national seed Rice and Texas A&M will play in Houston this weekend for a shot at Omaha. Wayne Grahamís Owl squad swept their home regional at Reckling Park in Houston last weekend while Texas A&M went 3-1 in their regional in College Station to advance to the Super Regionals. Rice won the CUSA regular season title but lost both of their conference tournament games before their regional victory. The Aggies, who went into their regional having lost eight or their past nine ballgames, won their Monday night affair with Houston to advance to play #6 national seed Rice for a shot at advancing to Omaha for the College World Series.

TEXAS A&M AT RICE

THE MATCHUP

The Owls (45-13) swept their home regional last weekend in Houston, beating Sam Houston State 3-2, St. Johnís 11-2, and in-state rival Texas 7-4 to advance to the Super Regionals. For Rice, their strength this year has been the pitching, with their team ERA currently at 3.55. The Owls have one of the nationís best starters in Ryan Berry and have a dynamic reliever in Cole St. Clair. Opposing Rice for a shot at Omaha is Texas A&M (46-17), who beat Illinois-Chicago 15-1 and Houston 22-4 before losing their Sunday contest against Houston 4-3. With the Super Regionals on the line, the Aggies beat Houston 13-5 to advance to play Rice in Houston. Before winning their opening game against Illinois-Chicago, Texas A&M had lost eight of their last nine games, and looked like a team that could make an early exit. But the Aggies showed why they were a team that was ranked in the top 10 all year long, winning their home regional and advancing to the next round. Rice and Texas A&M met last year in Houston in the Super Regionals, with the Owls advancing to Omaha.

THE VENUE

Hosting the Super Regional in Houston this weekend will be Reckling Park, home of the #3 national seed Rice Owls. Recent renovations to Reckling Park have made it one of the best places to watch a college baseball game in the nation. Downtown Houston can be seen beyond the outfield wall and the ballpark has a seating capacity of 3,700. But last year in the Super Regionals against A&M, Reckling Park saw more than 5,000 fans come through the gates for each game.

BREAKING IT DOWN

Starting Pitching
Rice is always known to have good starting pitching, and this year itís no different. Wayne Grahamís starting trio of Ryan Berry (8-4, 3.00 ERA), Chris Kelley (5-1, 3.28 ERA), and Matt Langwell (5-1, 4.38 ERA) has helped the Owls squad go 45-13 on the year. Berry was named National Freshman Pitcher of the Year last year by Collegiate Baseball and can be dominant at times. The Aggies also have good starters with Clayton Ehlert (6-2, 3.41 ERA), Barret Loux (6-2, 4.27 ERA), and Brooks Raley (7-2, 4.33 ERA) in the rotation. Both Rice and A&M have good starting staffs, but the Owls have the ace in Berry and have more postseason experience.
Advantage: Rice
Hitting
Rice and A&M both boast team batting averages over .300, with the Owls at .308 and the Aggies at .315 on the season. Wayne Grahamís club is more of a small-ball club, as they have only one player with double digit homeruns on the year. Diego Seastrunk (.363, 5 HR, 56 RBI), Rick Hague (.346, 8 HR, 48 RBI), Aaron Luna (.319, 9 HR, 52 RBI), and Adam Zornes (.306, 11 HR, 52 RBI) are the best Owls at the plate. The Aggies are a team that can hit the longball (81 HR) as well as hit for a good average (.315). Jose Duran (.382, 6 HR, 67 RBI), Dane Carter (.379, 8 HR, 60 RBI), Luke Anders (.344, 16 HR, 56 RBI), Darby Brown (.338, 12 HR, 68 RBI), and leadoff man Kyle Colligan (.318, 14 HR, 38 RBI) are the main contributors at the dish for head coach Rob Childress and the Aggies. A&M scored 53 runs in the four games of their regional last weekend.
Advantage: Texas A&M
Out of the Pen
The Owls and the Aggies both have strong bullpens with each team having great closers. Riceís best bullpen arms are middle reliever Matt Evers (4-1, 2.63 ERA) and closer Cole St. Clair (9-2, 2.65 ERA, 5 saves), who is one of the nationís best closers and should go high in the MLB draft on Thursday. For A&M, Kyle Thebeau (6-4, 1.95 ERA) and closer Travis Starling (8-1, 3.55 ERA, 9 saves) are the best out of the bullpen. Both have strong players to go to in the bullpen, but itís the depth of the Rice bullpen that gives them the slight edge in this category.
Advantage: Rice
Coaching
Wayne Graham leads the Owls squad while Rob Childress is the skipper of the Aggies. In his tenure at Rice, Graham has led the Owls to Omaha six times and has won a national championship (2003). Heís one of the best coaches in the nation, and brings in great players to the program every year. Rob Childress of A&M has now led the Aggies to the Super Regionals the past two years. Graham, who is a legend in the college baseball world, easily takes this category.
Advantage: Rice
Intangibles
The Owls are a program that knows how to play in the postseason, having made the College World Series the past two years. They play well against good teams, and have a 26-5 record at home this year in Reckling Park. Rice has a great bullpen with Cole St. Clair closing games out. A&M has players with postseason experience as they have now made back-to-back Super Regionals. They also have a reliable closer in Travis Starling, a pitcher who has won games as well as closed them out for the Aggies. The Owls have more postseason success and more experience than A&M.
Advantage: Rice

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Super Regional in Houston this weekend should be among the best going on in the NCAA Tournament, as two teams from the state of Texas play for a shot at Omaha. Rice has been there before, having made back-to-back College World Series while Texas A&M last made the trip to Omaha in 1999. Like last year, there should be over 5,000 squeezed into Reckling Park in Houston to watch two Texas teams battle it out for a shot at the College World Series.
In the Houston Super Regional, Rice has the better pitching while the Aggies have the better hitting. The Owls have home field advantage, although there should be a lot of maroon in Reckling Park this weekend. Rice has had more postseason success than A&M, and beat them last year to make it to the College World Series. Look for this Super Regional to go three games with each game being very close.

PREDICTION TIME

Eddie Jason Jimmy Jonathan
Rice Rice Rice Rice

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