College World Series
Monday, March 30

OMAHA, Nebraska (Ticker) -- After a shaky start, Rice enjoyed a thrilling finish thanks to Kodiak Quick.

Quick committed a throwing error with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, allowing Chris Kolkhorst to score the winning run as Rice moved within a win of its first national championship in any sport with a 4-3 victory over Stanford at the College World Series.

With the championship round changed to a best-of-three format, Stanford (50-17) jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning against Rice ace Jeff Niemann, who entered the contest with a 17-0 record and a 1.67 ERA.

But Niemann settled down and the Owls (57-11) were able to rally, scoring once in the second and twice in the sixth to tie it.

Cardinal starter Ryan McCally (7-3) matched Niemann and actually started the 10th, despite throwing 128 pitches. But the senior walked Kolkhorst on five pitches before Dane Bubela sacrificed.

A freshman with a funky name, Quick entered and struck out Vincent Sinsi for the second out. Quick looked like he would get out of the inning when Austin Davis hit a slow roller up along the first base line. Quick fielded the ball and made a wild throw past first baseman Brian Hall, who was knocked to the ground by Davis as Kolkhorst raced home with the winning run.

"I didn't know what was happening," Kolkhorst said. "I was on second and Austin hit a little roller. I rounded third and kept going until I touched home plate. I saw guys coming out of the dugout, the first baseman down on the ground, and I was not sure what happened. I asked, "Did we win?' I could not believe it."

Owls closer David Aardsma, a first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants, pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

Niemann went eight innings and surrendered three runs - two earned - and six hits. The righthander walked two and struck out four.

Rice can clinch the series on Sunday afternoon.

Aardsma replaced Niemann to start the ninth and gave up a leadoff single to Jed Lowrie before Chris Carter lined out. Aardsma uncorked a wild pitch but retired Hall and Tobin Swope to end the inning.

In the bottom of the inning, Matt Ueckert reached on a one-out single, but McCally set down the next two batters, sending the game into extra innings.

McCally, who was pitching on three days rest, went 9 1/3 innings and gave up four runs - three earned - and eight hits. He walked three and struck out three.

"A complete game is always the goal," McCally said. "But my philosophy the last three starts has been to get through five innings, then take it one inning at a time."

"We were hoping he would give us six or seven innings on three days rest and he gave us a fabulous pitching performance against one of the best pitchers in college baseball," Stanford manager Mark Marquess said.

A sophomore coming off a dominant performance in a win over Southwest Missouri State in the Owls' opening game at the College World Series, Niemann struggled in the first inning in this one.

With one out, Jonny Ash gave the Cardinal the lead with his second homer of the season. His other homer came in Thursday's victory over Cal State Fullerton.

Carlos Quentin followed Ash with a single and Ryan Garko ripped an RBI double into the right-center field gap. After Danny Putnam grounded out, first baseman Sinsi committed a throwing error to allow Garko to score and give Stanford a 3-0 lead.

"I was throwing some of my best stuff, but they would either foul it off or get hits," Niemann said. "They are an awesome team that could really swing the sticks."

Niemann settled down after the rough opening inning and surrendered just three singles the rest of the way.

"I wasn't going to change my game plan because I had a bad first inning," Niemann said. "The slider is my out pitch and I wasn't going to change that."

"What Jeff did after a rough first inning, when it looked like they would bludgeon him, was remarkable. It says a lot for him as a competitor," Rice manager Wayne Graham said.

McCally worked out of trouble in the second, but the Owls got to him for a run in the third. Kolkhorst led off with a triple and Bubela lofted a sacrifice fly.

McCally cruised through the next two innings before the Owls tied it in the sixth on run-scoring singles by Davis and Enrique Cruz, the son of former major leaguer Jose Cruz.

In the eighth, the Cardinal made a bid to take the lead. With a runner on first and two outs, Danny Putnam belted a line drive to left field that Kolkhorst snared as he crashed into the wall.

"I am thankful he got it because it turned the game around," Niemann said.


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