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Owls have a hoot
OMAHA, Neb. -- Rice's first national title in any sport was the most impressive in College World Series history.
Rice scored three runs in the first inning, then added a record-tying seven in the sixth as the Owls beat Stanford 14-2 on Monday night in the CWS' most-lopsided championship game.
"There are a lot of passionate people around Rice and they wanted this and needed it," said 67-year-old coach Wayne Graham, who won five junior college national championships and completed his 12th season at Rice.
It was Rice's fourth appearance in the College World Series, and the Owls had won just one of seven CWS games before this year.
"It means something to Houston," Graham said. "They're proud of the academic tradition of Rice. This was merely a quest to maintain honor and to do things the right way, which has always been so important at Rice. Giving them an athletic championship means a lot."
Philip Humber pitched a complete-game five-hitter, Enrique Cruz drove in four runs and Paul Janish knocked in three as Rice (58-12) battered Stanford (51-18) pitching for 14 hits.
"Everyone played his best game, and Phil did a good job," Graham said. "We were fortunate to have better-rested pitching."
Stanford (51-18), which overcame a second-round CWS loss to reach the final series and then forced a third game against Rice, lost in the championship game for the third time in four years.
In their last title game appearance, the Cardinal lost 12-1 to Miami in 2001. That loss tied the previous record for largest margin of deficit in the CWS championship.
"We haven't made much of a game of it the last two times," Stanford coach Mark Marquess said.
Freshman left-hander Mark Romanczuk gave up the three runs in the first inning. Five innings and five pitchers later, the Owls led 11-0.
Humber (11-3) retired the first seven batters he faced before Brian Hall doubled in the third. He then set down 10 of the next 12 before Ryan Garko doubled in the seventh and later scored to end the shutout bid.
Humber walked two and struck out four in the first championship game complete game since Brett Laxton of Louisiana State beat Wichita State in 1993.
Humber, the Owls' No. 3 pitcher, worked largely in the shadows of Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend most of the postseason. He lasted just 3 2-3 innings in Rice's 5-4 win over Texas last Wednesday.
"I went into my last start thinking about what bad could happen," Humber said. "This time, I just focused on the game and getting the ball over the plate."
Rice catcher Justin Ruchti said he wouldn't have predicted such a strong performance by Humber.
"I thought when we were down in the bullpen, his curve might be a problem," Ruchti said. "He kept putting it in the dirt. I don't know what changed. The key to the win was his split-fingered fastball. We got a lot of weak grounders and lazy flies off that."
While Humber hummed along, Romanczuk (12-2) struggled from the start. He threw 46 pitches and walked five as Rice sent nine men to the plate in the first.
Romanczuk gave way to Matt Manship in the bottom of the second after walking Chris Kolkhorst to start the inning.
"If you can't throw strikes, you can't win games," said Romanczuk, who threw only 19 of his 50 pitches for strikes.
In the first, a walk to Kolkhorst, Craig Stansberry's single and a walk to Vincent Sinisi loaded the bases. Then Romanczuk walked Cruz to force in a run, struck out Janish and got Austin Davis to pop out.
But two more runs scored when Romanczuk walked Jeff Blackinton and Dane Bubela.
The Owls added a run in the second after Kolkhorst walked and Stansberry beat out a bunt. Janish drove in Kolkhorst with a fielder's choice grounder.
"We knew we wanted to score some runs early for Philip," first baseman Vincent Sinisi said. "It seems like whenever he pitched, we'd get one run for him and then shut it down. We expected to score for him early."
The Owls, who had six hits and two walks against four pitchers in the sixth, tied a championship game record with their seven-run inning. It was the biggest outburst since Southern California had a seven-run inning while beating Missouri 8-7 in 1958.
Kolkhorst, who doubled twice in the inning, drove in two runs with his second one. Janish also had a two-run double, and Cruz hit a two-run single. Bubela drove in another run with his base hit.
"We were intense the whole game and never let up," Janish said.
Stanford's Sam Fuld set the CWS record for career hits with 24. His RBI-single in the eighth broke a tie with Keith Moreland, who had 23 hits for Texas from 1973-75.
The Cardinal's John Hudgins, who tied a College World Series record with three wins, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He is the 16th player to win it from the losing team, and first since Florida State's Marshall McDougall in 1999.