Baseball: Owls One Win Away From National Title After 4-3 Win Over Stanford Saturday
By ERIC OLSON
Associated Press Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Chris Kolkhorst scored from second base on Stanford pitcher Kodiak Quick's throwing error, giving Rice a 4-3 victory in 10 innings Saturday night in the first game of the College World Series championship round.
Stanford starter Ryan McCally pitched into the 10th and issued a leadoff walk to Kolkhorst, who moved to second on Dane Bubela's sacrifice. Quick came on and struck out Vincent Sinisi, but Austin Davis hit a soft grounder that the Stanford reliever picked up to the left of the pitcher's mound.
Quick's hurried throw sailed past first baseman Brian Hall, who collided with Davis and was flat on his back as Kolkhorst scored the winning run. Hall was not seriously injured.
The teams meet in the second game of the best-of-three series Sunday, with Rice (57-11) needing a victory to claim the school's first national title in any sport. Stanford (50-17) must win to keep alive its hopes of winning its first CWS title since 1988.
Rice's Jeff Niemann, bidding to become the first unbeaten 18-game winner in Division I history, didn't get a decision after pitching eight strong innings.
He gave up three runs -- two earned -- in the first, but then shut out the Cardinal on three hits before David Aardsma (7-3) relieved him in the ninth. Aardsma allowed one hit and struck out one in two innings.
Niemann retired 11 in a row between the fifth and eighth innings, consistently throwing fastballs clocked in the mid-90s. Of his 117 pitches, 80 were strikes.
Niemann caught a big break before leaving. After walking Ryan Garko with two outs in the eighth, Kolkhorst robbed Danny Putnam of a run-scoring hit with an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track in left field just before running face-first into the wall.
Jonny Ash, who hit his first career homer in Thursday's elimination-game win over Cal. State Fullerton, started the scoring when he drove Niemann's 3-2 pitch into the right-center field bleachers in the first.
Carlos Quentin followed with an infield single and scored on Garko's double. The RBI was Garko's school record-tying 92nd.
Garko made it 3-0 when he scored an unearned run when Jed Lowrie reached on first baseman Sinisi's throwing error. Sinisi fielded Lowrie's grounder cleanly but was off-target with his throw to Niemann, who was covering first.
The Owls got a run back in the third when Kolkhorst tripled off McCally (7-3) and scored on Bubela's sacrifice fly.
Rice tied it with two runs in the sixth. Bubela doubled and scored on Davis' RBI single to make it 3-2. Davis advanced to second on the throw to the plate, and went to third after Craig Stansberry popped up to right field. Enrique Cruz tied it with a single past the outstretched glove of shortstop Tobin Swope.