Rice Hands Texas Worst CWS Loss In 40 Years

I mentioned Saturday that Rice has arguably the best pitching and deepest bullpen in NCAA baseball. Following the Owls' 12-2 College World Series drubbing of Texas Monday, you’ll get no argument here. Now, Texas (49-19) faces a rematch with Miami (45-16-1) in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. (CDT) elimination game with the survivor needing to defeat Rice (55-11) twice to reach the national championship round of the CWS.

Owl sophomore pitcher Wade Townsend (11-1), playing the role of the spurned man, struck out 10 and yielded but two hits in the last six innings, while Texas resorted to a CWS record seven pitchers in the loss. With Townsend throwing heat, Rice put this one on ice when it put seven on the board in the sixth inning.

I also mentioned Saturday that Texas, inexplicably, has played its sorriest defense this season when Justin Simmons is on the mound. The Horns committed three errors as Simmons (last year’s ace with a 16-1 record) saw his 2003 mark fall to 4-5. Texas' seven hurlers walked nine batters and hit a CWS record-tying four batters. (It was as if Texas took a page out of Miami’s playbook in the ‘Canes 13-2 loss Saturday.)

The result was Texas’ worst defeat of the year and second-worst in 119 CWS games, dating back to an 11-run loss to Arizona in 1963.

Townsend surrendered two runs in the opening frame but then steadied himself, working out of a bases loaded jam in the second and then retiring eight consecutive batters leading up to Taylor Teagarden's sixth-inning double. Townsend then sent nine more Texas batters back to the dugout before pinch-hitter Michael Hollimon's two-out double in the ninth. When Townsend trotted back to the Owl dugout, he was but one out shy of pitching his first complete game. After reliever David Aardsma closed out the Horns, Rice sophomore starter rushed from the dugout flashing an upside down Hook'em.

Townsend apparently never got over the fact that Texas did not recruit him and he got his revenge, scattering seven hits and striking out 10 on the evening while Simmons gave up three hits and two earned runs in just four innings of work.

Texas got on the board first on the strength of Curtis Thigpen's double to jump to a 2-0 lead. The Owls plated one in the third when Chris Kolkhorst scored following Simmons wild throw to first. Rice took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning on Justin Ruchti's two-run double.

The wheels came off in the sixth inning.

The Owls tallied but four hits during that seven-run frame, but the Texas defense was a case study of total collapse. Rice scored all seven runs with two outs as four Texas pitchers combined to walk three, hit two, and bring in a run with a wild pitch. Texas also suffered two of its three errors in the sixth.

The Owls upped their lead to 11-2 in the seventh on Kolkhorst's RBI single.

The CWS team with the strongest pitching typically has the inside track to the national championship, and so it ultimately points to a Rice-Cal State Fullerton matchup. But the one consolation to Longhorn fans is that this 2003 Texas team is one that rises up when its chain has been yanked. This is a Texas team that lost two-of-three regular season games to the Aggies, plus one more to the Farmers in the Big 12 Tournament, before rising from the ashes and knocking A&M out of the conference tourney in the sweetest double-header Texas has won in years. Texas also bounced back from a loss against Lamar to clinch the NCAA Austin Regionals two weeks ago.

Does Texas have the pitching to get past Miami (again) and then get past Rice (twice)? Frankly, not this year.

Does Texas have the moxie and the mojo and the juevos? For the most part this season, it has. But the extent to which it does (or does not) in the next day or two will become the legacy of the 2003 Longhorn baseball team.

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