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Sunday Regional Scores
If Necessary Game is Necessary
By Allen Brown
Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com
HOUSTON - Taylor Wall continued his recent
string of brilliant pitching performances as he spun a three-hit
shutout to lead the Rice Owls (42-16) to an 8-0 win over the
Kansas State Wildcats (43-17-1) and force the "if necessary"
championship game on Monday.
The complete game from Wall (7-5) was the second
complete game on the day for the Owls and kept Rice from using
any pitcher out of its beleaguered bullpen.
Wall was in command throughout the game as he faced only 30 KSU
hitters and never more than four in any inning. He yielded only
three singles and a walk while striking out four. No Wildcat
reached third base.
The Owls also played an exceptional game on defense, as Coach
Wayne Graham noted, "(We) made an awful lot of good plays on
defense." None were more exceptional than two consecutive plays
in the second inning from Rice centerfielder Steven Sultzbaugh.
With a runner on first and no outs, Jason King smashed a deep
line drive to almost dead center. Sultzbaugh, with his back
completely to home plate, took off on a sprint towards the
centerfield fence. He reached up over his shoulder at the last
instant to make the catch. The next batter, Drew Biery, hit a
relatively long, high fly ball to the left of centerfield that
Sultzbaugh tracked down easily. K State base-runner Justin
Bloxom tagged up from first base but Sultzbaugh threw a perfect
one-hop strike to second baseman Brock Holt who tagged out a
sliding Bloxom for the third out.
Wall appreciated the effort of his defense and
noted, "Pitching is really easy with the guys I have (on
defense) behind me."
Coach Brad Hill of Kansas State was impressed with Wall's
pitching and stated, "Taylor Wall did a great job of confusing
us. He did a great job of changing planes- throwing changeups in
the dirt and fastballs above our bats." Three hits is the lowest
offensive output for Kansas State this season.
The key offensive inning for the Owls was the fifth, when Rice
scored four times. Already leading 1-0 (after three straight
singles in the fourth resulted in a run), Michael Fuda led off
the fifth with an infield single and Brock Holt drew a walk from
Kansas State starter, senior righty Todd Vogel. Hill then went
to the bullpen and summoned freshman righty Evan Marshall to
face Rick Hague. Hague hit the first pitch he saw down the right
field line for an RBI double. After an intentional walk to load
the bases, Owls freshman sensation Anthony Rendon singled
sharply into right field to drive in two runs.
Jess Buenger, a starter and key contributor to the Owls’ 2007
World Series team as a sophomore who has since been besieged
with injuries, pinch hit and ripped a three-run homer in the
eighth to complete the scoring.
Graham indicated that he had not decided on a starter for
Monday's championship game, but that Ryan Berry would be
available to close. Hill had also not decided on a starter, but
suggested that Thomas Rooke and James Allen were both available
to pitch extensively on Monday for the Wildcats.