|Wednesday, June 18
Updated: June 19, 2:56 PM ET
'Chaos' reigns in wild Omaha thriller
By Wayne Drehs
OMAHA, Neb. -- For those paying attention, things seemed out of whack here Wednesday night long before Rice starter Philip Humber drilled three Texas batters in the first inning.
It started with a rain delay that never really involved rain. The 30-minute postponement of the first pitch was due not to a heavy downpour, but rather threatening clouds and ominous radar. Barely a drop of water fell.
Four hours later, it ended with the 2002 College World Series Most Outstanding Player suffering only the second loss of his career as defending national champion Texas headed home early.
"It was chaos -- total chaos," said Rice manager Wayne Graham following the Owls' 5-4 win. "You think you've seen it all. You think you've been around this game and know everything there is to know and then you come across a night like this."
You would have thought there was a full moon. Maybe a black cat. Perhaps it was Friday the 13th.
But the full moon was four nights ago. The black cat was in 1969. And Friday the 13th was last week.
On this night, no explanation existed. During his emotional postgame news conference, Texas head coach Augie Garrido, a 34-year college-coaching veteran, admitted he had never seen a game like this.
"That's kinda what keeps it exciting," he said. "This one had its own ... unique ... whatever you want to call it."
Humber plunked three straight Texas hitters in the first inning, two on consecutive pitches. He hit or walked five of the first ten batters he faced. The other five? He struck out four of them.
The Longhorns didn't have a single hit by the fourth inning, yet had left five runners in scoring position.
Meanwhile, Rice junior Jeff Blackinton stole second base in the fifth inning, not even drawing a throw. No big deal, right? Not until you consider he had never stolen a base in his career.
Rice had committed just three errors in eight NCAA tournament games and ranked second in the nation with a .980 fielding percentage. On this night, though, the Owls committed three errors, one of which led to a pseudo inside-the-park home run and a pair of Texas runs.
And the game ended when Texas reliever Huston Street, who hadn't lost a game all year and is considered by many the best closer in college baseball, gave up a run-scoring single to Rice's No. 9 hitter, Justin Ruchti, on his best pitch, a slider.
"I had thrown him four sliders in a row and I didn't think he'd be looking for a fifth," said Street, last year's CWS hero. "But he was on it. I left it up and he hit it. Those things happen."
Wednesday night in Omaha, they seemed to happen a little more. Even the umpires got into the act.
In the fifth inning, second base umpire Randy Bruns erroneously called Texas' Mike Hollimon safe on an attempted stolen base. Television replays showed that Rice shortstop Paul Janish made an athletic play to come across the bag, grab Ruchti's throw and swipe Hollimon before he hit the bag. It proved costly two batters later when Texas' Omar Quintanilla singled to tie the score at 4-4.
"(The game) came down to a line drive that didn't find its way into the glove for an out," Garrido said. "That's really what separated the two teams -- that line drive."
That and the fact that one team handled the on-field circus better than another.
"In a world of chaos, you have to make sure your team keeps its poise," Graham said. "And I thought we did that tonight."
It wasn't easy. Hit batsmen, bases on balls, errors -- they're all miniature changes in momentum that teams use to spark a rally. There were 20 such incidents Thursday.
"It was challenging," Ruchti said, "to not get too high or too low at any one point. It was a battle."
The errors alone were surprising. In the bottom of the ninth, Matt Cavanaugh was pinch-running for Blackinton, who had reached on an error by Texas second baseman Tim Moss. Moss had made only one error in 15 postseason games and boasted a .953 fielding percentage.
In the fourth, Street -- in the game at third for his defensive abilities -- booted a ball that eventually led to four Rice runs.
And in Texas' half of the fourth, Rice left fielder Chris Kolkhorst recklessly threw the ball to second on Eric Sultemeier's double. The ball rolled all the way to the wall behind the first base line, allowing Sultemeir to score.
Want more wackiness? Quintanilla and Majewski, Texas' top two hitters this postseason with averages of .421 and .361, respectively, combined to strand five runners, three in scoring position.
Quintanilla, who had struck out just once in 61 postseason at bats, K'd with runners at first and second with two outs in the second.
"It's frustrating when you see all those guys out there and you can't get them in," Majewski said. "But they made the pitches they needed to when it counted."
We should have seen it all coming. What with the rain delay, the hit batsmen and the pregame antics of Texas freshman Zach Gallenkamp.
It was Gallenkamp who raced a Rosenblatt Stadium ball girl across the outfield to an errant beach ball that had fallen from the bleachers during the rain delay. He grabbed the ball, tossed it back into the stands and received a round of applause from the Omaha fans.
A wacky act from a freshman. Right then we should have seen this coming. If only we were paying attention.
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.