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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 — Houston, TX

Baseball takes College World Series berth with win over Texas A&M

By Dylan Farmer     5/15/08 7:00pm

The baseball team clinched a third-consecutive College World Series berth with a 6-5 win over the visiting Texas A&M Aggies in Sunday's Super Regional game, and while the opponent and result were the same as last year, the late-game heroics were a welcome addition.With two outs and a runner on and his team's 5-4 deficit glowing on the scoreboard in the game's eighth inning, head coach Wayne Graham watched the arm of Aggie reliever Travis Starling fire a pitch towards home plate. He then watched the bat of junior catcher Adam Zornes fire it back over the left field wall for what would prove to be the game-winning home run.

"He's pretty much a knuckle-curve guy like [Rice pitcher Ryan] Berry, so I've seen plenty of that," Zornes said after the game. "I was sitting on it and he hung it, and I was just lucky to put a good swing on it."

The low line-drive shot rocketed over the fence as A&M left-fielder Brodie Greene watched, and the record crowd of 5,368 erupted in as much relief as joy. The Owls had stranded three runners on base without scoring in the seventh inning, and although junior Aaron Luna opened the eighth with a walk, Aggie catcher Kevin Gonzalez subsequently threw him out on a failed steal attempt. After freshman Rick Hague singled to third base, fellow freshman Chad Mozingo flied out to third, and with two outs the Owls' come-from-behind possibilities seemed dismal. That's when Zornes came to the plate.

"I told our booster club early in the year that I can't guarantee anything from this

team - only that that they're going to be entertaining," Graham said in the post-game press conference. "We feel like we've got ability but we've been rather unpredictable at times."

Some of the Owls faithful might welcome the unpredictability in this case, since it opened the door for the team's seventh trip to the CWS since 1997. Others, however, might want to focus on the part of the performance that was characteristically solid - the Rice bullpen. After the Aggies tagged sophomore starter Mike Ojala and junior Matt Langwell for all five of their runs through four innings, the other relievers took over and held A&M scoreless for the remainder of the game. Freshman Matt Evers gave up two walks but no hits or runs in one inning of work, and he gave way to junior Bryan Price, who appeared to overcome his struggles from yesterday and struck out three in 2.1 innings. Junior Bobby Bell closed the game by adding another impressive performance to his resumé. He used a devastating change-up to dominate the Aggies in the last two frames, and he induced a soft double-play grounder to second base to seal the Owls' victory.

The Owls will play the winner of the Arizona St. vs. Fresno St. Super Regional in the first round of the CWS, which begins this Saturday, June 14. The Sun Devils and Bulldogs are tied at one game apiece, and they will play a rubber match Monday at 2 p.m.

The NCAA is also expected to release the CWS schedule tomorrow evening, when the Owls will find out the date and time of their opening game.

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