Stanford Falls to Rice in College World Series Finale

June 24, 2003

By ERIC OLSON
Associated Press Writer

OMAHA, Neb. - Wayne Graham told his players before the College WorldSeries championship game that this Rice team was the best ever.

The Owls then went out and proved it - in emphatic fashion.

Rice scored three runs in the first inning, then added a record-tying sevenin the sixth as the Owls won the school's first NCAA title in any sport with a14-2 victory over Stanford on Monday night in the CWS' most-lopsidedchampionship game.

'He'll always remember this team, just like all of us will,' catcherJustin Ruchti said of Graham. 'But this one will stand out for him. This washis first national championship team. It's been an amazing run.'

Philip Humber pitched a five-hitter, Enrique Cruz drove in four runs andPaul Janish knocked in three as Rice (58-12) battered Stanford (51-18) pitchingfor 14 hits.

'Everyone played his best game, and Phil did a good job,' said Graham, whowon five junior college national championships and completed his 12th season atRice. 'We were fortunate to have better-rested pitching.'

The performance capped a season during which the Owls put together aschool-record 30-game winning streak and had one of the nation's top pitchingstaffs and defenses.

Rice finished the CWS with a 2.83 ERA in six games, and it was the Owls'pitching that carried them to the national title.

'We got some good breaks and some bad breaks here, but you have to overcomethe bad breaks,' Graham said. 'We have a lot of pitching depth and a lot ofthose guys will be back next year.'

And that includes all three of Rice's top starters: Jeff Niemann, WadeTownsend and Humber. That prospect has the 67-year-old Graham thinking about arepeat, not retirement.

'I feel like I could go 20 more,' Graham said. 'I'm not going out. We'restarting to think tomorrow morning about winning another one. We want to comeback and do it again.'

Stanford's Ryan Garko, who batted .402 and became the first Cardinal to hitover .400 since 1991, was 3-for-11 against Rice.

'I think the thing that really impressed me was they are three real bigguys, but they're finesse pitchers,' Garko said. 'They mixed up their pitcheswell. They weren't afraid to throw a 1-0 curve or a 2-0 change. They have threegood arms.'

Stanford, which overcame a second-round CWS loss to reach the final seriesand then forced a third game against Rice, lost in the championship game forthe third time in four years.

In their last title game appearance, the Cardinal lost 12-1 to Miami in2001. That loss tied the previous record for largest margin of deficit in theCWS championship.

'We haven't made much of a game of it the last two times,' Stanford coachMark Marquess said.

Freshman left-hander Mark Romanczuk gave up the three runs in the firstinning. Five innings and five pitchers later, the Owls led 11-0.

Humber (11-3) retired the first seven batters he faced before Brian Halldoubled in the third. He then set down 10 of the next 12 before Garko doubledin the seventh and later scored to end the shutout bid.

Humber walked two and struck out four in the first championship gamecomplete game since Louisiana State's Brett Laxton beat Wichita State in 1993.

Humber worked largely in the shadows of Niemann and Townsend most of thepostseason. He lasted just 3 2-3 innings in Rice's 5-4 win over Texas lastWednesday.

'I went into my last start thinking about what bad could happen,' Humbersaid. 'This time, I just focused on the game and getting the ball over theplate.'

While Humber hummed along, Romanczuk (12-2) struggled from the start. Hethrew 46 pitches and walked five as Rice sent nine men to the plate in thefirst.

'If you can't throw strikes, you can't win games,' said Romanczuk, whothrew only 19 of his 50 pitches for strikes.

The Owls, who had six hits and two walks against four pitchers in the sixth,tied a championship game record with their seven-run inning. It was the biggestoutburst since Southern California had a seven-run inning while beatingMissouri 8-7 in 1958.

Chris Kolkhorst, who doubled twice in the inning, drove in two runs with hissecond one. Janish also had a two-run double, and Cruz hit a two-run single.Dane Bubela drove in another run with his base hit.

'We were intense the whole game and never let up,' Janish said.

Stanford's Sam Fuld set the CWS record for career hits with 24. HisRBI-single in the eighth broke a tie with Keith Moreland, who had 23 hits forTexas from 1973-75.

The Cardinal's John Hudgins, who tied a College World Series record withthree wins, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He is the 16thplayer to win it from the losing team, and first since Florida State's MarshallMcDougall in 1999.

Graham lamented the Owls' lack of success in Omaha during their previousthree trips when they went a combined 1-6.

'He's been waiting for this his whole life,' first baseman Vincent Sinisisaid. 'He got the junior college championship, but he's been waiting for thisfor 13 years and we finally gave it to him.'

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