June 19, 2006
OMAHA -- Despite an uncharacteristic three fielding errors, the Rice pitching trio of Cole St.Clair, Bobby Bell and Bryce Cox combined to hold a hot Miami team that had been averaging 10 runs per NCAA game to just two runs on the way to a dramatic 3-2 victory over the eighth-ranked Hurricanes in a winner's bracket game of the College World Series before a Rosenblatt Stadium crowd of 19,885 and national television audience on ESPN Monday evening in Omaha.
The Owls used the long ball and a Miami error to jump on the scoreboard for a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. For the third time in his career sophomore Tyler Henley led off the game with a solo home run for a 1-0 lead. The solo shot to right was the his eighth round-tripper of the year. Senior Greg Buchanan followed with a single and Brian Friday's sacrifice attempt was mishandled in the field, allowing Buchanan to dig for third base. He came home easily on a sacrifice fly to left by Joe Savery and the Owls stretched the margin to 2-0.
The Hurricances took advantage of two Rice fielding errors for an unearned run in the third off St.Clair. Eddy Rodriguez reached on a fielding error to lead it off and he moved to third on a one-out double down the line by Jemile Weeks. A walk loaded the bases, but St.Clair looked to be out of the jam with a tailor-made double play ground ball. It handcuffed the Owls, allowing Miami to cut the lead to 2-1 with the bases still loaded. Rice missed one double play, but came right back with a twin-killing on the next hitter. A 5-2-3, Rodriguez-to-Lehmann-to-Savery double play ended the early threat.
Rice answered with a run in the top of the fourth. Freshman Aaron Luna led off with a single to left field and a Miami fielding error on Danny Lehmann's sacrifice put runners on first and second. A Jordan Dodson sacrifice advanced the runners and a ground out by Kenny Ford scored Luna from third to make it a 3-1 game.
In the seventh with Bell working in relief of St.Clair, Weeks led a string of three-consecutive hits that again loaded the bases. Cox entered the game and induced another would-be double-play grounder. The Owls had trouble finding the handle on the ball and could convert on only one of the outs. Weeks was able to score from third and the lead was down to one, 3-2.
In the eighth the Rice defense stepped up and erased a runner with a double-play. In the ninth Miami slugged back-to-back one-out hits that put runners on first and third. Cox pitched his way out of the jam with consecutive strikeouts in the heart of the Miami batting order to end the game.
Cox earned his fourth save of the season with 2.2 scoreless innings. St.Clair improved to 7-3 with 5.0 solid frames. He scattered three hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
With the victory the Owls won for the 39th time in their last 42 games. The team improved to 57-11 on the year and earned a day off Tuesday by staying in the CWS winner's bracket. The Blue and Gray's next game will be Wednesday night against either the same Miami team or Oregon State. The Owls need to win only one more game to advance to the weekend's championship best-of-three series.