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June 15, 2007

The shootout

OMAHA, Neb -- Coming into the College World Series, the book on Rice was great pitching - but would they hit enough?

Folks, it may be time for a new book. The Owls' normally sturdy pitching staff allowed ten runs and fifteen hits. That was overcome, however, as their offense bailed them out with fifteen runs and nineteen hits in 15-10 victory over Louisville to open the CWS play.

Things looked bleak for the Owls as Louisville jumped out early for ten runs through five. What occurred next was inexplicable.

"We knew we were going to win the ballgame," said Rice coach Wayne Graham.

"Can anyone truly explain baseball," Graham continued. "It is unpredictable. That is what makes the game great. You have to roll with the punches. But I didn't expect to win 15-10. That's crazy."

Rice bounced back from their early hole with six singles in seven plate appearances to plate four third inning runs. The outburst snapped a 25 1/3 CWS scoreless inning streak going back to last season.

"We came in with a stigma of 23 innings without scoring," said Wayne Graham. "We knew we could hit and we proved it today."

The Owls chased Pitts in the fifth with three more runs - all coming after Cardinal shortstop Chris Cates booted a potential inning-ending double play.

"Baseball is a game of momentum," said Louisville coach Dan McDonnell. "We had just scored four runs to go up 10-4, don't make a play at third base, then don't throw out a runner at third from leftfield. Then we don't field a double-play ball. We have got to play clean baseball, the teams here are too good."

"It was about momentum," McDonnell said. "That had it and we couldn't get it back."

Of Rice's nineteen hits, six were four extra bases. Joe Savery and Aaron Luna each homered and Jordan Dodson had a pair of doubles.

"You have got to give credit to their hitters," McDonnell said. "They were here last year and they are really good."

Berry over Savery

Ryan Berry had started each Friday down the stretch for Rice. Why would anyone be surprised when he started the College World Series opener Friday?

For starters, Rice coach Wayne Graham announced after last Sunday's victory over Texas A&M that Joe Savery would likely get the start. Savery has been the third starter all season because pitching in game one has adversely affected his hitting as the Owl first baseman. With the day off between games and Graham's statement, many felt this would be a great opportunity to pitch Savery, drafted nineteenth overall by Philadelphia last week, in game one.

Instead Berry got the start and allowed seven hits and five runs before getting chased in the third.

Savery made his mark though.

After striking out in his first plate appearance, Savery his the ball hard his next four times including a home run and a game-tying single. His day would have been even bigger but he was robbed at the wall by centerfielder Boomer Whiting after a long drive to gap.

"Not starting the first game is nothing new for me," Savery said. "The reason I came to Rice was to be a two-way guy. I was happy to sneak one by one of their outfielders."

Not just happy to be here

Before the season Dan McDonnell told SEBaseball.com he was not a patient man. He wasn't joking. For a program that had only been to one Regional and had never won a Regional game, McDonnell's Cardinals are in the big party. Some wondered if they would just be happy to be here.

Not hardly.

Louisville jumped on Rice scoring ten runs in the first five innings with fourteen hits. Not only did they score in each inning, the Cards easily could have scored more as they stranded seven through five and eleven in the game. They also left the bases loaded in the eighth.

Those stranded runners came back to haunt them as Rice roared back erasing leads of 5-0 and 10-4 as they scored eleven unanswered for the victory.

The loss puts the Cards in the losers' bracket - not an unfamiliar place for McDonnell's club.

"We have hit our bumps during the season," McDonnell said. "In the last month we have lost some games we didn't feel like we should lose. We had that in the Regionals and the Supers. We will lean on the ten seniors. As I told them in rightfield, this is Omaha. If I have to motivate you here, then you are going to regret this down the line. I am dying to play again. I wish we played the next game."

McDonnell and his club will play Sunday at 1 p.m. CT against the loser of North Carolina and Mississippi State. Rice gets the winner at 6 p.m. CT.


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