|Monday, June 9
Updated: June 10, 9:11 AM ET
Owls advance to second straight CWS
HOUSTON -- Now that the Rice Owls have won their city championship, they've got a bigger task -- their fourth trip to the College World Series in the past seven years.
Wade Townsend struck out nine and allowed four hits over eight innings, and Dane Bubela hit a go-ahead two-RBI single as Rice beat crosstown rival Houston 5-2 Monday.
"I was more worried about keeping the championship of Houston than going to Omaha,'' Rice coach Wayne Graham said. "Now, going to Omaha, is gravy.''
Once they get there, Graham likes Rice's chances, with a stronger pitching staff than a year ago.
"I think this is our most solid team,'' Graham said. "We have more pitching depth than in the past. I feel we've got a shot.''
The Owls will face Southwest Missouri State in their first round game on Saturday.
Townsend (10-1) allowed an RBI single by Travis Tully in the first inning but then shut down the Cougars, who were trying to reach the CWS for the first time since 1967. He walked two and allowed one earned run.
After a triple by Michael Bourn in the third inning, Townsend retired 11 batters in order until he walked Tully with two out in the sixth inning.
"Bourn hit a 2-1 pitch and after that I started getting ahead of the hitters and we were playing great defense,'' Townsend said.
Brian Henderson (5-5) got the start for the Cougars and after retiring the first five batters in the game, he walked Austin Davis in the second and Matt Emerson doubled to right field.
A throwing error by Houston second baseman Cole Bruce into the Rice dugout allowed both runners to score on a grounder by Bubela for a 2-1 Rice lead.
"I think the difference was when the plays came our way in the field we didn't make them,'' Houston coach Rayner Noble said. "That's all it was we just didn't make the play when it was right in front of us.''
Houston got a run in the first on an RBI single by Tully. Matt Farrington's sacrifice fly in the third tied it at 2-2, scoring Bourn, who had tripled to the right-centerfield wall.
Henderson hit Paul Janish with a pitch and Davis singled in the fourth inning and with two out, Bubela singled scoring both baserunners for a 4-2 lead. Justin Ruchti had an RBI single in the sixth.
Henderson pitched 3 2/3 innings. He allowed three hits, four runs, two earned and he had one walk and one strikeout.
The Cougars reached the Super Regional with a dramatic comeback against Texas A&M. They didn't have another rally in them against the Owls.
"They (Cougars) are the consummate gladiators,'' Noble said. "I don't think we had the best talent most of the time but that didn't matter. I think we fought the good fight.''
Noble, who was an assistant coach under Graham, also gives the Owls a good shot at their first national title.
"I think the team that we played three games here is one of the best teams I've seen in college baseball,'' Noble said. "If they just do what they did to us this weekend, there's no reason they shouldn't win the whole thing.''