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Saturday Regional Scores
Morris, Kansas State Stop Rice
By Allen Brown
Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com
HOUSTON – On
his 144th pitch Saturday night, Kansas State ace junior righty
A.J. Morris struck out Rice left fielder Michael Fuda with the
tying run on third and the winning run on second to retire the
Owls in the bottom of the ninth and secure the Kansas State
Wildcats’ 7-6 win over the Rice Owls in a thrilling, nail-biting
classic at Reckling Park.
The strikeout of Fuda was only Morris’ second of the game, but
both came in the ninth inning. Morris (14-1) allowed 13 hits and
two walks but benefited from 19 ground-ball outs, including key
double-play grounders in the fourth and eighth innings.
On offense, Kansas State (43-16-1) tallied all seven of their
runs with two outs.
“We seem to focus more
with two outs, for whatever reason,” Wildcats coach Brad Hill
Jordan Cruz knocked in
Drew Biery with a single in the second, Nick Martini knocked in
Adam Muenster with a single in the third and Justin Bloxom hit
both a sacrifice fly to score Clayton Jurica in the sixth and a
home run in the eighth. The big blow from the Wildcats was
Martini’s three-run double in the top of the ninth to expand the
Wildcats lead to 7 to 3.
Facing lefty Matt Evers, who retired the first two batters in
the ninth before hitting both Dane Yelovich and Clayton Jurica
(sandwiched around a bunt single by Adam Muenster), Martini
worked the count to 3-0. Evers threw two called strikes and then
Martini fouled off two pitches before slicing a double deep down
the left-field line to clear the bases.
“I had the fast ball
timed by then … It was the fifth one in a row,” Martini said.
However, the Owls (40-16) mounted a furious rally in the bottom
of the ninth against Morris who threw more than 40 pitches in
the ninth inning causing Hill to “keep wondering if I should
take him out or not.”
Sultzbaugh tripled to left-center to lead off the Owls’ ninth,
Jimmy Comerota hit an infield single to score him. Brock Holt
was able to reach on an error and Diego Seastrunk on a walk to
load the bases for the Owls with one out and freshman sensation
Anthony Rendon at the plate. Rendon looped a single just out of
the grasp of first baseman Bloxom and Comerota scored to make
the score 7-5. After a Chad Mozingo ground out scored Brock Holt
from third to make it 7-6 with two outs, Morris struck out Fuda
to end the game.
Morris credited his improved maturity this year for helping him
get through the ninth inning.
“I [recognize] that I
can only control the pitch I throw, and I only focus on what I
can control,” Morris said. He added, “I wanted to make Rice earn
it in the ninth inning…I didn’t want to walk anyone in.”
stated he was not worried at all in the ninth inning because he
“has total faith in A.J.”
was the Owls’ leading hitter tallying three hits. Ryan Berry
started for Rice and completed eight innings but allowed 11 hits
and four runs (three earned) and absorbed his first loss of the