June 1, 2009
HOUSTON -- Junior Jimmy Comerota and sophomore Michael Fuda both had four hits, and three other players had three each, to key a 20-hit Rice attack and lift the Owl baseball team to a 13-4 victory over visiting Kansas State in the championship game of the NCAA Houston Regional Monday evening at Reckling Park.
Rice tied its season-high in hits to help send the team into next week's Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. The Owls face No. 3 ranked LSU on the road in the Baton Rouge, La., in the best-of-three series starting on Friday at 6 pm (Central Time). First pitch of the second Super Regional game is set for 4 pm (Central) on Saturday. Both of the first two Super Regional games have been selected for a live national television broadcast on ESPN. The Super Regional's third game (if necessary) would be at 6 pm (Central) Sunday on ESPN2.
The Owls have now advanced to super regionals nine times (1999, 2001, '02, '03, '05, '06, '07, '08 and '09). Miami (Fla.) and Florida State are the only two other schools that have advanced to as many as nine Super Regionals since the current format was adopted in 1999. Rice is a combined 13-7 in 20 super regional games.
The Blue & Gray started Monday's hit parade early and jumped on the scoreboard for a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning. Brock Holt led off with a double to left-center and scored on an RBI single by Rick Hague. Walks to Diego Seastrunk and Steven Sultzbaugh loaded the bases. Hague scored on a sacrifice fly by Michael Fuda for a 2-0 lead.
Kansas State came right back with the longball in the top of the second. Wildcat third baseman Jason King knocked an 0-1 pitch over the right field wall. His seventh homer of the season cut the lead in half. The Wildcats tied it up in the third inning. Adam Muenster singled into right-center and both Carter Jurica and Nick Martini were hit by a pitch to load the bases. Justin Bloxom reached on a fielder's choice to plate Munster that made the score 2-2.
The Owls exploded for six runs in the bottom of the fourth on six hits, a walk and KSU fielding error to break the game wide open. Fuda opportunistically hustled for a run from second base after the Wildcats lost the handle on the ball following a bunt base hit by Comerota. After RBI singles by Holt and Hague scored two more, Seastrunk blasted a three-run homer to right field. His seventh round-tripper stretched the margin to 8-2 after four.
That would be all the lead reliever Matthew Reckling would end up needing on the way to his second win of the season. The freshman from Houston came out of the bullpen in the third for starter Mark Haynes and proceeded to pitch 4.0 solid frames. Reckling scattered three hits and a walk while striking out three.
Rice was not quite finished on offense. Fuda singled to start the fifth inning and three-consecutive base hits by Comerota, Jess Buenger and Holt pushed Rice into double-digits and a 10-2 advantage.
Kansas State fought back for a pair of runs in the top of the seventh. Muenster led off by reaching two bases on a Rice error. He went to third on a ground out and scored on a double to right by Bloxom. Jason King followed with an RBI single that made it 10-4.
Rice got one of the runs back in the bottom of the frame. Comerota started it off with his third base hit of the night and he moved to scoring position on Daniel Gonzales-Luna's sacrifice. He scored his third run of the night on a double by Hague and the Owls were up 11-4. Four more hits and two runs in the eighth paved the way to a 13-run, 20-hit game. Owl pitchers Jordan Rogers and Ryan Berry worked the final 2.1 innings to keep Kansas State in check.
For Rice Seastrunk, Holt, Anthony Rendon, and Sultzbaugh all joined Owl pitcher Taylor Wall on the All-Regional Team. Wall was named the Houston Regional's Most Outstanding Player after firing a complete game shutout against K-State in an elimination game Sunday night (May 31).
The Wildcats' fantastic year came to an end with a 43-18-1 record. Rice improved to 43-16 overall and now has at least two more games to play in 2009.