Baseball: Horns beat Stanford, earn title shot

What a difference a Street makes.

Back in March, Huston Street didn't see the field when Stanford took two of three from Texas, including a crushing extra inning defeat of the Horns with a five-run bottom of the ninth rally in the series opener. In Omaha, though, Street nailed down UT's crucial first win over Stanford on Monday and the 18-year-old Texas freshman closed the door on the Cardinal again in the Horns' 6-5 bracket championship game win Thursday.

Texas will play for the national title vs. the winner of Friday's Clemson-South Carolina contest on Saturday at 12:30 in Rosenblatt Stadium.

Street insured the Horns that championship game berth and saved the game for Jesen Merle, who turned in a masterful four-plus innings in relief of starter Ray Clark for just his third win of the year. Merle took over for Clark with no outs in the fifth and pitched into the ninth, striking out five and holding Stanford hit-less until Sam Fuld led off the final frame with a beautiful bunt single. Frank Anderson called for Street, and the Longhorn closer forced Ryan Garko to fly out to center and then earned his 13th save of the season (and third in three CWS appearances) when Jason Cooper grounded to 1B Jeff Ontiveros, who quickly threw to SS Brandon Fahey for the force at second, allowing Fahey to return the ball to Ontiveros back on the bag for the game-ending double play.

The Texas bats again provided just enough pop. Dustin Majewski, Ontiveros and Kalani Napoleon accounted for all six UT runs, with each delivering two RBIs. Napoleon's came in the second on a two-out single that answered the Cardinal's bottom-of the first three-run outburst with two for the guys in Burnt Orange. Majewski drove in one with a single in the fifth and added what proved to be the winning run with a solo homer in the seventh. Ontiveros also sent one to the bleachers, pushing across Majewski and himself in the fifth to give Texas its first lead.

The Cardinal jumped on Clark immediately, with leadoff man Chris Carter going deep to left center field to give Stanford a quick 1-0 lead. No. 2 batter Fuld also smashed a Clark offering to deep left field that stayed in the ballpark but set up the Cardinal with a runner at third with no outs. Clark plunked Garko before getting his first out of the inning, a K of Cooper. Chris O'Riordan, though, delivered an RBI single to right, and, after a Clark strike out of Carlos Quentin, Scott Dragicevich singled up the middle to drive in the third run of the bottom of the first.

"I was anxious and excited to see how the players would respond," Augie Garrido said of Stanford's first inning explosion. He received his answer almost immediately.

Texas, with the help of a two-out Stanford error, answered in the top of the second. Ontiveros and Matt Rosenberg grounded out to start the frame and Ryan Hubele followed with a grounder to third that Dragicevich dropped and couldn't recover in time to get the UT catcher at first. With the reprieve, the Horns -- a couple of them at least -- found their swings. Fahey singled to right and J.D. Reininger walked to load the bases for typically light-hitting Kalani Napoleon. The Longhorn CF, though, continued his post-season run of clutch at-bats with a two-RBI single to right to trim the Cardinal lead to one at 3-2.

"We feel confident when we get down," Majewski said postgame. "We got down 3-0 and we knew we need to put something together."

The Horns, after putting something together in the second, grabbed their first, although short-lived, lead in the top of the fifth. Quintanilla stroked a ball into the right field corner and, with a head-first, shoulder-turn slide, made it safely to third. He scored to tie the game on a Majewski single to left, and Ontiveros gave Texas a two-run cushion at 5-3 with a line drive dinger that left the park in about two seconds flat.

After three outstanding innings, Clark faltered in the bottom of the fifth. The UT rightie hit leadoff man Garko and Cooper followed with a run-scoring double to the right-center gap. O'Riordan's RBI, game-tying single to right on an 0-2 pitch chased Clark. Merle, on with one on and no outs, set down the next three batters to send the game to the sixth tied at five, setting up Majewski for his game-winning shot in the top of the seventh.

"It was a game between two very competitive, talented teams," Garrido said. "They threw the first punch and it was a pretty heavy one with three runs. This is the type of game we lost at the beginning of the year."

Timely defense and hitting, from the seniors all the way down to the freshmen, typically great starting pitching and clutch relief, along with the exploits of a kid named Street turned that around through the latter part of the season and again Thursday night in Omaha. And that puts Texas on the brink of its fifth national title.

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