Error Puts Card Up Against Wall Again

Stanford has fought back against elimination several times in this 2003 College World Series, and they will have to do so again after dropping a tight 4-3 opening loss to Rice in the CWS championship series. The Card took an early lead, which slowly faded, but nothing prepared us for the sudden and painful ending on an error in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Saturday night's Stanford-Rice game was a tough one to swallow for the Cardinal as the Owls posted a 4-3, ten inning victory to take a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-three CWS National Championship Series.  Rice battled back from 3-1 down as they scored two in the sixth to tie the game and then scored the winning run in the bottom of the tenth on a Kodiak Quick throwing error.  For the Cardinal, Ryan McCally pitched a fantastic game as he went 9 1/3 innings on the mound while allowing four runs (three earned) before giving way to Quick with one out in the tenth.  At the plate, Jonny Ash hit another homer, a solo shot in the first inning.

The Cardinal jumped on the board early with three runs off Rice ace starter Jeff Niemann in the top of the first.  Niemann, who entered the game with a perfect 17-0 record, surrendered a one-out, solo homer off the bat of Jonny Ash.  For Ash, it was his second home run in as many games after not hitting one homer in his Stanford career.  The Cardinal wasn't done though as Carlos Quentin then singled and Ryan Garko belted a double to deep right center field to make the score 2-0.  After Danny Putnam grounded out to move Garko to third, Jed Lowrie reached on an error by Owls first baseman Vincent Sinisi which scored Garko for a 3-0 Stanford lead.  It was Sinisi's first error of the season.

Ryan McCally got the starting call for Stanford.  Pitching on just three days rest after a solid seven inning outing against South Carolina, the senior righthander fired two shutout innings to start the game.  Rice did rap out two hits and McCally issued a walk during those first two frames, but he got out of both innings unscored upon.  In the third though, Rice mustered a run as leadoff hitter Chris Kolkhorst tripled and then Dane Bubela scored him with a sacrifice fly to center.

Meanwhile, Niemann settled down after allowing the three first inning runs.  Brian Hall led off the second with a single, but he was thrown out trying to steal second.  In the third, Ash led off with a single and Garko singled with one out, but both runners were stranded.  Then in the middle innings, Niemann really settled into a groove as the Cardinal didn't even pick up a hit in the fourth through the sixth frames while Niemann issued just one walk during that stretch.

McCally breezed through the fourth and fifth innings throwing just 17 pitches in the process.  In the bottom of the sixth, with the score still 3-1 Stanford, the Owls pushed across two scores to tie the game.  Bubela led off with a double and after Sinisi flied out, #4 hitter Austin Davis singled to left score Bubela to make the score 3-2.  The key on that play was that Putnam in left tried to gun down Bubela at the plate which allowed Davis to take second base.  It looked though as if McCally would get out of it without further damage as Craig Stansberry flied out, but then second baseman Enrique Cruz came through with the clutch hit as he singled up the middle past the diving Tobin Swope to tie the game at 3-3.

Brian Hall led off the seventh inning with a deep fly ball to left that looked as if it had a chance to leave the yard, but leftfielder Chris Kolkhorst made the catch just in front of the wall.  Niemann retired the next two batters in the inning on a couple of groundouts.  McCally matched Niemann with a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to keep the score tied.

In the eighth, Garko walked with two outs and then Putnam smoked a ball to deep left field.  Like Hall's ball, this one appeared to have a shot to clear the fence, but Kolkhorst made a spectacular catch crashing into the wall to end the inning.  McCally showed very few signs to tiring as he fired another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the eighth.

In the ninth, Rice elected to make a pitching change as Niemann was removed in favor of star closer David Aardsma who was a first round draft pick a few weeks ago.  Lowrie promptly greeted Aardsma with a clean single and after Chris Carter flied out to deep left (another very nice catch by Kolkhorst on a ball at the warning track), Aardsma uncorked a wild pitch to move Lowrie to second.  But the bottom two hitters in the order couldn't come through as Hall grounded out to third and Swope popped out to second to end the threat.

In the bottom of the inning, DH Matt Uecket singled with one out, but McCally got Paul Janish to fly out to right and Justin Ruchti to fly out to center to send the game into extra innings.

Stanford went down quietly in the tenth as Fuld and Ash both grounded out while Quentin struck out.  Aardsma threw only eight pitches in the inning. McCally went back out to the mound in the bottom of the tenth and walked the leadoff batter, Kolkhorst, on five pitches.  After Bubela sacrificed him to second, McCally was lifted in favor of freshman Kodiak Quick.  Quick faced All-American Vincent Sinisi to start his outing and struck Sinisi out on a great slider in the dirt for the second out.  Quick made another nice pitch to next batter, Austin Davis, as he looked to get out of the inning.  Davis hit a slow roller on the right side in between the pitchers mound and first base.  Quick pounced off the rubber but his throw sailed wide of Hall and up the foul line which allowed Kolkhorst to easily score from second with the winning run.

Game Notes:

* Ryan McCally took the loss in this game, but he still pitched very well. In what will likely be his final outing as a Stanford Cardinal, McCally went 9 1/3 innings yielding four runs (three earned) on eight hits. He walked three and struck out three.

* Rice starter Jeff Niemann went the first eight innings as he allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits.  He walked two and struck out four while he didn't allow a hit in the final five innings of his outing.

* David Aardsma recorded the win with two scoreless innings of relief.

* Offensively for Stanford, Jonny Ash (2-for-5, HR, RBI) and Ryan Garko (2-for-3, 2B, RBI) both had multi-hit games.

Stanford 300 000 000 0 - 3 7 1
Rice     001 002 000 1 - 4 8 1

WP: David Aardsma (7-3)
LP: Ryan McCally (7-3)

HR: Stanford – Jonny Ash (2)

Records: #3 Stanford (50-17), #1 Rice (57-11)

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