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Fresno St. bests Rice at College World Series - June 16

By Dylan Farmer     5/15/08 7:00pm

Before the baseball team's opening game at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., most analysts agreed that the Owls would have to find some way to jumpstart their offense if they were to make a serious run for the title. Nobody expected that the pitching would need to be resuscitated, too. The underdog Fresno St. was chillingly efficient in its complete dismantling of sixth-ranked Rice's pitching efforts; the Bulldogs turned 13 hits and six walks into 17 runs as they continued their rampage over nationally ranked opponents with a victory Sunday afternoon. Fresno St. has now defeated five top-25 teams in its notable postseason run.

Rice will play an elimination game on Tuesday against Louisiana St. University, which lost the Sunday evening game 8-4 to the University of North Carolina. The Tigers will be a tough match-up for the Owls, as well: They had won 25 of their past 26 games before Sunday's contest, and they have not lost back-to-back games since getting swept by Georgia Apr. 18-19. They are also a very offensive-minded team, batting .308 on the year with 99 home runs.

Head coach Wayne Graham acknowledged that the first-game loss made Rice's path to the national championship much more difficult, but he also stressed that the goal is far from impossible.

"It can be done," Graham said. "We need to keep our heads up. We've done a great job playing in survival situations this year. We hope we can keep it up."

The Owls played with anything but a sense of urgency in the contest against Fresno St. In the top of the second inning, starting pitcher Ryan Berry walked the first two batters he faced. A Rice error loaded the bases with one out, and although Berry was able to record a strikeout for the second out, Bulldog shortstop Danny Muno drove a single up the middle to score two runs. A double down the left field line by the next batter scored two more, and Fresno St. jumped out to a 4-0 lead.

Two home runs and a number of smaller hits helped the Bulldogs rack up seven more runs in the top of the fourth, and Berry was pulled from the game midway through the inning. Freshman Matt Evers was the first of a whole squad of relievers called upon to control Fresno St.'s hot bats, but that proved impossible, and the Bulldogs put up runs against six of the Owls' seven pitchers on the day.

However, a more telling stat might be that Fresno St. had 14 RBIs on two-strike counts. Owl pitchers consistently failed to put Bulldog batters away, and Rice paid for it.

Graham noted Fresno St.'s extraordinary offensive performance after the game.

"Fresno St. did an incredible job hitting the ball," he said. "It's hard to hit the ball that hard in batting practice."

The Bulldogs also bested the Owls on the defensive side of the ball. Starting pitcher Justin Wilson went seven full innings, allowing eight hits and walking four, and limiting the Owls to just two earned runs. Third baseman Diego Seastrunk smashed a three-run homer to right field in the eighth inning, but it was in vain, as Fresno St.'s lead proved insurmountable.

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