"He has a great arm, a bulldog mentality," said scouting director Tony DeMacio, who began monitoring Townsend in February. "He's a strong, physical kid who's going to give it to you every day. We feel like we're very fortunate to get him."
Some scouts have projected Townsend as a major league closer, though they also view him as a potential staff ace.
"I'll let player development take care of that," DeMacio said.
Townsend walked 45 and struck out 148 in 120 1/3 innings. His fastball has topped out at 95 mph, though it was clocked at 87 to 91 earlier in the year.
"My arm's gotten better and better as the year goes on," he said.
Philip Humber was the first Rice pitcher drafted, going third to the New York Mets. Jeffrey Niemann went fourth to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, leaving Townsend to wait for the Orioles.
"I guess I'm the worst one," he said, laughing. "I was really excited. I didn't know who was looking at me. It was really a shock when I heard my name called."
Townsend, 6 feet 4, 225 pounds, has the best curveball of the three Rice pitchers. He also has one more honor - the Western Athletic Conference's Pitcher of the Year.
"With the experience he has and the way he's pitched, we feel very good about him," said Jim Beattie, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations. "We really felt this draft was pitching rich and there were a lot of good arms. We ended up with a very good one."
The Orioles have taken a college pitcher with their first pick in five of the past six years, the exception being outfielder Nick Markakis in 2003. They passed on Long Beach State's Jered Weaver, once projected as the first overall selection before falling to the Anaheim Angels at No. 12 because of signability issues.
Weaver and Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew, regarded as the best player in the draft, are represented by agent Scott Boras. Drew lasted until the Arizona Diamondbacks took him with the 15th pick.
The Orioles haven't decided where they'll assign Townsend. His innings will be limited after helping Rice to the NCAA tournament, in which it lost Sunday in the sub-regionals. "We don't think he's too far away [from the majors], with all the experience he has," Beattie said.
The San Diego Padres took Mission Bay (Calif.) High shortstop Matt Bush with the first overall pick. Old Dominion pitcher Justin Verlander went to the Detroit Tigers at No. 2.
In the third round, the Orioles chose Florida Atlantic catcher Jeff Fiorentino, who batted .348 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs.
The Orioles picked University of Maryland first baseman/right-handed pitcher Kevin Hart in the 11th round and St. John's (Bowie) right-hander Andrew Schindling in the 16th.
The New York Yankees selected right-hander Jason Jones of Pasadena, an Arlington Baptist graduate, in the fourth round. Jones just finished his junior year at Liberty.
Maryland outfielder Justin Maxwell was chosen by the Texas Rangers in the 10th round, and Williamsport High pitcher Nick Adenhart went to the Angels in the 14th. Adenhart was regarded by some as the nation's best high school pitcher before suffering an injury this spring that forced him to undergo reconstructive ligament surgery on his right elbow. Maxwell missed the season with a broken arm.
NOTE: Pitcher Darwin Cubillan cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Ottawa.
First-Wade Townsend, rhp, Rice. Third-Jeff Fiorentino, c, Florida Atlantic. Fourth-Brad Bergesen, rhp, Foothill HS, Pleasanton, Calif. Fifth-C.J. Smith, of, Florida. Sixth-Bryce Chamberlin, rhp, Washington State.
Seventh-John Johnston, ss, Texas. Eighth-David Haeehnel, lhp, Illinois. Ninth-Samuel Howell, of, Santaluces HS, West Palm Beach, Fla. 10th-Andrew Moffitt, of, Wichita State. 11th-Kevin Hart, rhp, Maryland.
12th-Juan Puente, c, Bradley. 13th-Denver Kitch, ss, Oklahoma City Univ. 14th-Kyle Schmidt, rhp, South Florida. 15th-William Venable, of, Princeton. 16th-Andrew Schindling, rhp, St. John's HS, Bowie.
17th-Kyle Boehm, rhp, Oakland Univ.
18th-Trent Baysinger, lhp, Washington.
1. San Diego, Matt Bush, ss-rhp, Mission Bay HS, San Diego. 2. Detroit, Justin Verlander, rhp, Old Dominion. 3. New York Mets, Philip Humber, rhp, Rice. 4. Tampa Bay, Jeff Niemann, rhp, Rice. 5. Milwaukee, Mark Rogers, rhp, Mount Ararat School, Orr's Island, Maine.
6. Cleveland, Jeremy Sowers, lhp, Vanderbilt. 7. Cincinnati, Homer Bailey, rhp, La Grange (Texas) HS. 8. Orioles, Wade Townsend, rhp, Rice. 9. Colorado, Chris Nelson, ss, Redan HS, Decatur, Ga. 10. Texas, Thomas Diamond, rhp, New Orleans.