Rice first baseman/pitcher Joe Savery, pitchers Ryne Tacker and Ryan Berry and skipper Wayne Graham headline the list of league award winners as announced on Tuesday in Greenville, N.C., the site of the 2007 Conference USA Baseball Championship. Savery was named Player of the Year, Tacker grabbed Pitcher of the Year honors, Berry earned Freshman of the Year recognition and Graham took home his second straight Keith LeClair Conference USA Coach of the Year award. It marks the first time ever that a school has claimed all Player, Pitcher, Freshman and Coach of the Year awards in the same season. Newcomer of the Year honors, a brand-new award this season, went to Houston OF Jimmy Cesario. Voting was done by a panel consisting of each head coach, each team's sports information director and a media representative from each city.
Savery has shined as one of the top two-way performers in the country during his three years at Rice. One of 16 national semifinalists for the 2007 Dick Howser Trophy, Savery leads the team in batting average (.356), has 16 doubles, three home runs and 45 RBI (second on the team). He was especially strong against top-level competition, batting .377 in the Owls 19 games against nationally-ranked opponents. In working double-duty on the mound, Savery is 8-1 with a 2.41 ERA and his opponents' batting average is .228. The two-time All-American was named first team All-Conference USA as an infielder and earned second team All-C-USA honors as a pitcher.
After missing the entire 2006 season with an injury, Tacker bounced back to share the team and Conference USA lead in wins with a 9-1 record. He tied Savery for third place in the conference with a 2.41 ERA and allowed opponents to hit just .220 against him, second-lowest in the league. In 71 innings pitched, Tacker struck out 66 and walked just 20. He played a role in four Owls shutouts this season and notched three saves.
Berry burst onto the scene, earning a spot in the Owls starting rotation from the beginning of the season. He is tied for the league lead in victories with a 9-2 record and is sixth in C-USA with a 2.45 ERA. Berry has logged 95.2 innings, striking out 93 and walking 26. A three-time Conference USA Pitcher of the Week, he earned National Pitcher of the Week honors on April 10.
Cesario is the first recipient of the Conference USA Newcomer of the Year, which goes to a player completing his first year of Division I competition. He led Houston in batting this season at .358, topped the club in on-base percentage at .425 and hit a team-high 13 doubles with 34 RBI. Cesario was named C-USA Hitter of the Week during his first week in the league (Feb. 5-11) and had a 20-game hitting streak from March 18 to April 29, fifth-longest in UH history.
Graham led the Owls' to the C-USA regular season championship and the number two ranking in the nation heading into this week's conference championship. Rice has won 18 consecutive games to post a 46-10 overall record. For the second straight year, the Blue & Gray finished 22-2 in C-USA play, winning this year's title by a league record 7.5 games. Rice matched its own record for the best conference winning percentage (.917) and fewest losses in league history, set by last year's Owls team.
In his 16th season at the helm of the Rice program, Graham is no stranger to receiving coaching honors. In addition to last year's Keith LeClair Coach of the Year honor, he was named the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1998, 1999, 2002 and the co-coach of the year in 2003. The Austin American-Statesman named Graham its Southwest Conference Coach of the Year in 1995.
The Keith LeClair Coach of the Year award is named after the former East Carolina head coach who courageously battled ALS, or as it is more commonly known as, Lou Gehrig's Disease. Diagnosed with the disease in 2001, LeClair continued to attend Pirate home games and support ECU baseball until passing away last July.
Regular season champion Rice had the most first-team selections with four, while East Carolina, Houston and UAB each had two. Eight of the league's nine teams had at least one representative on the first team. The Owls placed a league-best seven representatives on the two All-Conference teams. ECU had five total selections, while Memphis earned four.
2007 CONFERENCE USA BASEBALL AWARDS
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Joe Savery, Rice
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Ryne Tacker, Rice
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Ryan Berry, Rice
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Jimmy Cesario, OF, Houston
KEITH LeCLAIR COACH OF THE YEAR
Wayne Graham, Rice
FIRST TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
IF - Brian Friday, Sr., Rice
IF - Joe Savery, Jr., Rice
IF - Trey Sutton, Sr., Southern Miss
IF - Kiko Vazquez, So., UCF
OF - J.R. Bond, Sr., UAB
OF - Jimmy Cesario, So., Houston
OF - Harrison Eldridge, Jr., East Carolina
C - Danny Sawyer, Sr., UAB
DH/UT - Joey Lieberman, Sr., Memphis
P - Ryan Berry, Fr., Rice
P - Shooter Hunt, So., Tulane
P - Wes Musick, Fr., Houston
P - Ryne Tacker, Sr., Rice
RP - Shane Mathews, Jr., East Carolina
SECOND TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
IF- Adam Amar, Sr., Memphis
IF - Dale Mollenhauer, Jr., East Carolina
IF - Bill Moss, Sr., Memphis
IF - Michael Murray, Sr., Memphis
OF - Tyson Auer, Jr., UCF
OF - Jared Gayheart, So., Rice
OF - Ryan Tousley, Sr., East Carolina
C - Luis Flores, So., Houston
DH/UT - Aaron Luna, So., Rice
P - Ryan Belanger, Sr., Southern Miss
P - T.J. Hose, Jr., East Carolina
P - Sean Morgan, Jr., Tulane
P - Joe Savery, Jr., Rice
RP - Patrick Ezell, Sr., Southern Miss
JP Ballinger, P, Southern Miss
Ryan Berry, P, Rice
Preston Claiborne, P, Tulane
Shay Crawford, P, UAB
Chris Duffy, 3B, UCF
Jonathan Merritt, SS, UAB
Wes Musick, P, Houston
Zak Presley, OF, Houston
Kyle Roller, DH, East Carolina
Diego Seastrunk, IF, Rice
Josh Valle, IF, Marshall