Strong arms make Rice the CWS favorite

Updated: June 15, 2006, 11:18 AM ET
By Will Kimmey | Special to ESPN.com

Rice Owls
Record: 55-11
How They Got Here: Won Houston Super Regional in three games; won Houston Regional in three games
CWS History: Five trips to Omaha, last in 2003; one championship in 2003
Coach: Wayne Graham (682-268, 15th season)

Rice's Top Hitters
Player (Position) AVG OBP SLG Key Stats
Joe Savery (1B) .336 .441 .517 19 2B, 9 HR, 63 RBI
Brian Friday (SS) .365 .460 .586 21 2B, 9 HR, 56 RBI
Josh Rodriguez (3B) .346 .448 .573 11 HR, 20 2B, 64 RBI

Rice's Top Pitchers
Player W-L ERA Key Stats
Joe Savery (LHP) 5-1 2.76 62-24 K-BB
Eddie Degerman (RHP) 13-1 1.81 158-47 K-BB
Cole St.Clair (LHP) 6-2 1.82 94-24 K-BB, 11 saves

Scouting the Owls: "Obviously, they can pitch with anybody in the country and that probably includes most Double-A teams.

"The starting pitching is dominant. [Reliever] Bryce Cox just started to figure it out in the second half of the season by changing his arm action. He always had velocity, [but] now he has control to go with it. He's a right-handed complement to [Cole] St. Clair, and St. Clair is a game-ender. If he's in the game and you're losing, you will not come back. He's a strikeout guy with a power arm from the left side and college guys just do not see that.

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"When you score three or four runs on Rice, you feel like it's eight or nine. They have an athletic defense so on the rare occasions you put it in play, they're going to catch it. Degerman, in terms of his stats, is a front-line production guy. Savery will be a first-rounder next year [and] St. Clair is a first- [or] second-rounder next year. With that amount of a quality arms in a short series, you can't get to a bad arm.

"Brian Friday is a quality hitter. He's a line-drive power guy with a high average [who] gets on base a lot. Keeping him, Rodriguez and [Tyler] Henley off base is a key. The top three hitters are quality pro-type hitters. Savery is a power left-handed bat, and [Aaron] Luna has as much power as any freshman in the country with a quick bat. He has some holes, but make a mistake and you're going to pay. Jordan Dodson is an adequate outfielder. He's in there for his bat, but he can get hot and carry you for a weekend.

"You have to keep their offense down because they will keep yours down. You have to win games 4-3, 3-2. You better move runners up when you can and you better drive runners in when you can because you won't have many opportunities to do it. On the flip side, if they start to score, it's going to be tough to come back. The team that will beat them needs dominant pitching, because if they can score on you, you're done."

Omaha Outlook: Pitching wins in Omaha, and Rice's staff is loaded with powerful arms and depth.

Degerman, Savery, Craig Crow, Bobby Bramhall and Will McDaniel all started at least nine games on the year, and St. Clair and Bryce Cox give double-barrel power arms out of the bullpen. Savery didn't pitch in the super regional, but his arm could become key if Rice must battle out of the loser's bracket. Lost among the pitching stars is an offense that has shown it can do the job if a slugfest breaks out. Rice slugged better than .500 as a team and enters Omaha as the favorite.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.

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