June 1, 2003


CBI Live
Prime pitchers populate programs

By Jonathan Yardley

Rice Thresher

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com


Jonathan Yardley is a Rice University sophomore, sports editor of the Rice Thresher and a radio announcer for Rice baseball on the Rice University sports network.


HOUSTON-Pitching and defense were the buzzwords at the Reckling Park regional, so much so that the 2003 All-Houston Regional Team should have had more pitchers than position players. Rice right handers Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend were the two pitchers named, and Mississippi first baseman Stephen Head’s pitching surely helped his selection as designated hitter, but all four teams threw good arms all weekend.


“That’s the best pitching we’ve seen all year as far as day in and day out,” Wichita State third baseman Brandon Green said.


The tournament’s opening game Friday featured a pitchers’ duel between Rice’s Philip Humber, who worked into the ninth, and McNeese State ace Rusty Begnaud, who pitched into the seventh. Friday’s nightcap saw Wichita State freshman Mike Pelfrey throw seven very strong innings to best a heroic complete game from Mississippi senior T.J. Beam. Head threw a complete game of his own Saturday morning to best a strong starting performance from McNeese State’s Jacob Marceaux. The deceptive final score included three runs against the Cowboy bullpen. Rice got to Wichita State’s Steve Uhlmansiek to win Saturday’s middle game, but the Shockers rebounded with strong relief efforts from Trenton Henderson and Mike Dennison in the nightcap. In that game, Mississippi got a valiant effort from lefthander Brae Wright, who gave up only two earned runs. Finally, there was Sunday’s battle between Townsend and Wichita State’s Jakubov, also featuring a great relief effort from Wichita State’s Noah Booth.


The tournament also featured four prolific closers (who can also start when needed):


Wichita State’s Dennison, who earned his 14th save in Friday’s game and got the win Saturday in relief


Mississippi’s Head, who went the distance Saturday but had 13 saves in the regular season


Rice’s David Aardsma, who became Rice’s all-time saves leader Sunday with this 10th of the season


Rice’s Townsend, who has closed (five saves) and started (7-0 as a starter) and won two games in the regional, one in relief and one as a starter.


Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson was hesitant to call Rice’s Chris Kolkhorst a ‘thorn in his side’ because of his personal connections with the family, but acknowledged the leadoff man’s constant presence as a danger to his team.


“I never knew he was going to be that great a player,” Stephenson, who knows Kolkhorst’s father Gary from Rotary Smith Award circles, said. “He took advantage with some great baserunning, very good defense, and timely hitting.”


Kolkhorst was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the first Sunday, extending his own single-season school record for most times hit by a pitch to twenty-two. His on-base percentage is nearing .480 after he was three-for-five in reaching base Sunday. Kolkhorst reached base three out of five times in each tournament game, going 4-for-9 at the plate with four runs scored and four RBIs, all of them in Saturday’s 10-1 win. His performance was highlighted by his three-run home run in the top of the second inning Saturday that jumpstarted Rice’s offense.


Rice advances to face either Texas A&M or Houston in the super regional and has had success against both in recent years. The Owls have won three in a row against A&M since February 2002:


a 7-4 win behind Niemann and Townsend as freshmen in College Station in 2002


a 10-5 win behind Niemann at Minute Maid Park in February 2003


an 8-0 blowout at Reckling Park on April 8, the final win of Rice’s 30-game winning streak; Townsend struck out 10 and walked one.


Rice has beaten Houston four-games-to-one in each of the last two seasons to win the annual Silver Glove Series played between the intracity rivals, and Townsend was named Most Oustanding Player of the 2003 series.


2003 All-Houston Regional Team

(as voted on by members of the media)

C – Cody Clark, Wichita State

1B – Vincent Sinisi, Rice

2B – Chad Sterbens, Mississippi

3B – Craig Stansberry, Rice

SS – Paul Janish, Rice

OF – Chris Kolkhorst, Rice

OF – Seth Smith, Mississippi

OF – Nick Blasi, Wichita State

DH – Stephen Head, Mississippi

P – Jeff Niemann, Rice

P – Wade Townsend, Rice


Most Outstanding Player: Chris Kolkhorst, Rice