May 31, 2009

click here for Regional Capsules

click here for Sunday Regional Scores


If Necessary Game is Necessary

By Allen Brown

Special to

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.