Last season at NCAA.com, we took a look back at some of the most successful college baseball programs’ all-time starting nines. With the road to Omaha set to kick off the weekend of Feb. 15, it’s time to rev the series back up.

Rice baseball kicks off the 2019 all-time starting nine series. Players’ professional careers were not considered, just their college careers — along with consideration given to their positional fits as well as a batting order that could provide a combination of a high batting average, speed and power.

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The Owls, a name synonymous with the NCAA tournament under head coach Wayne Graham, has pumped out plenty of talent. Twenty-three-straight trips to the postseason will tend to do that.

Second base: Donald Allen (1989-92)

Seems like the program’s all-time leader in stolen bases (86) is a nice fit atop the Owls’ all-time lineup. Allen played 219 games in a Rice uniform, which is also in the top 10 of Rice lore. He was the second in a run of speedy infielders, as Ben Matthews (84 steals) set the stolen base mark just prior to Allen. Allen gets the nod over Matthews after leading the team in hits and runs in a 1992 all-conference campaign.

ALL-TIME NINES, SEC: LSU | South Carolina 

Outfield: Jose Cruz, Jr. (1993-95)

Cruz, Jr. was a three-time All-American for the Owls, and rightfully so. His name is all over the top-10s of the Rice record books. Cruz, Jr. is fourth all-time with a .376 batting average, 203 RBI and 43 home runs, while his 199 runs scored are eighth-best in Owls’ lore. 

Here’s one day he’ll always be remembered for. On Feb. 9, 1995, Cruz, Jr. went off against Southwest Texas State for 10 RBI. Of course, it helped that he had three home runs in that game. Those three home runs were part of another streak. Cruz, Jr. homered in his last at-bat against Austin State the prior game, giving him four straight home runs. That feat is tied only by Lance Berkman in program history.

ALL-TIME NINES, WILD WEST: Cal State Fullerton | Long Beach State | ArizonaStanford | USC

First base: Lance Berkman (1995-97)

File under no-brainer. Berkman was one of the best collegiate bats of his era, a perennial threat across the statistical board in average, home runs and run production. Berkman led the Owls in batting in 1996 (.398) and ’97 (.431), while still holding the lead or placing in the top five in most offensive categories. His runs (233), RBI (272) and home runs (67) are second to none, while his career average (.385) is second and his 285 hits are fourth. 

Berkman was a two-time All-American and found himself on two All-Regional teams, taking home Most Outstanding Player honors in 1997. He was also the 1997 NCBWA National Player of the Year. Berkman’s legacy will last for eternity as he was enshrined in both the Rice and College Baseball Hall of Fame. Poor Vincent Sinisi. He’s certainly overshadowed by Berkman, but the “other” Rice first baseman definitely deserves a shoutout. Don’t feel too sorry for him though; Sinisi got the one thing Berkman never did as a member of the 2003 Rice national championship team. 

Outfield: Bubba Crosby (1996-98)

The name Bubba alone seems worthy of all-time praise, but Crosby has the stats to claim his spot in the lineup. While seeing his name across the top 10 of nearly every run-producing category in the Rice record books is impressive, here’s one better. Crosby blasted a home run in seven consecutive games from April 7-17 in 1998, including a four-homer performance on April 11 against New Mexico. But wait, there’s more. Crosby’s 1998 season was all about streaks, as he set the Rice mark with a 30-game hitting streak. Crosby finished his career in Houston with a .355 batting average, 59 home runs and 243 RBI, all top 10 marks in Rice history.

Third base: Anthony Rendon (2009-11)