May 31, 2009
HOUSTON -- For the second time in the day, the Rice baseball team fought-off possible elimination in the NCAA Houston Regional Sunday at Reckling Park with a complete game pitching performance. True freshman Taylor Wall scattered three hits and a walk while striking out four on the way to an 8-0 shutout victory over Kansas State in the nightcap of what proved to be a long, but worthwhile day of baseball for the Owls.
Rice had to win two games against two different opponents Sunday to avoid elimination. They did so with complete-game pitching and some welcome hitting on the offensive side. Before they could think about playing Kansas State, the Owls first used a complete game effort from junior right-hander Jared Rogers in the afternoon elimination game for a 12-5 win over Xavier to get to Sunday night.
With their backs still against the wall, the Blue & Gray turned to the freshman Wall. The left-hander from Houston's Westside High School came up with another big outing to force a final game for the Regional championship that guarantees advancement to the NCAA's best-of-three Super Regional Round next weekend in Baton Rouge, La.
Playing as the visiting team in its home venue in the NCAA Tournament format, Rice started the scoring with a run in the top of the fourth. Diego Seastrunk stroked a one-out single in the fourth and went to second on a base hit to left by Anthony Rendon. Chad Mozingo followed with an RBI single to center and the Owls were on the board 1-0
The Blue & Gray three hits and a pair of walks to stretch the margin to 5-0 in the fourth. After a one out RBI double by Rick Hague put runners on second and third, Kansas State intentionally walked Seastrunk to get to Anthony Rendon. Rendon delivered with a base hit through the right side to plate two more. Mozingo then reached on a fielder's choice that allowed Seastrunk to score.
Rice enjoyed getting some more breathing room, but it turns out Wall would not need it. He only allowed three hits in the game and had help with double-plays in the second and in the sixth. KSU twice left runners stranded at second base in the fourth and sixth. Wall retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced where the only runner he allowed was on a fielding error that could have been retired on the play. In his last three starts, Wall has two complete games and has allowed just two earned runs in 21.2 solid innings of work.
Rice was up 5-0 but the Owl offense wasn't finished. After a walk and base hit in the eighth. Senior Jess Buenger, who had been sidelined for most of the season, came off the bench as the new designated hitter and slugged a three-run homer over the right field wall. The longball was his first of the year and gave his team an emotional lift, as well as an 8-0 lead where it ended.
The two teams are not finished. Rice and Kansas State, which both have one loss in the double-elimination format, now meet in the final game on Monday (June 1) at 6 pm.