OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — After leaving town quietly last year, Rice opened the College World Series with a statement Friday.
Danny Lehmann doubled in the go-ahead run in a six-run eighth inning, and the Owls had 19 hits to rally for a 15-10 victory over CWS newcomer Louisville on Friday.
Lehmann not only gave Rice the lead, he ended a CWS-record streak for scoreless innings at 25 2-3 when he singled in the Owls’ first run in the third inning.
“We came in here with a stigma,” Rice coach Wayne Graham said. “I knew our kids could hit. They sure proved it today.”
The Owls (55-12), the No. 2 national seed, will play North Carolina Sunday. Louisville (46-23) will face Mississippi State in an elimination game Sunday.
Rice, with a team ERA of 2.83 ERA, figured it had the arms to quell the Cardinals’ potent offense. But Louisville, which had scored 77 runs in eight NCAA tournament games, took leads of 5-0 and 10-4 before Rice pitchers Scott Lonergan and Bobby Bramhall combined to hold the Cardinals scoreless the last four innings.
Rice used a three-run fifth inning and home runs by Joe Savery in the sixth and Aaron Luna in the seventh to get to 10-9.
“Coming back from six runs down, that’s something not a lot of people — including people on the team — probably thought we could do,” Savery said.
Bramhall (7-2) kept it a one-run game in the eighth after he intentionally walked Chris Dominguez to load the bases with one out. Bramhall struck out Pete Rodriguez after running the count full, then got Derrick Alfonso to fly out to end the threat.
The Owls broke open the game against Louisville closer Trystan Magnuson (3-3) in the bottom half. Chad Lembeck singled leading off and Tyler Henley beat out Dominguez’s throw from third for a bunt single before Savery’s liner into left tied it at 10.
“Momentum, that is what they had,” Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. “We couldn’t get it back.”
Lehmann’s double put Rice up 11-10, and the Owls scored four more times before Bramhall shut down the Cardinals in the ninth.
“Somebody asked me if I expected a pitchers duel. I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Graham said. “Can anyone truly define baseball? It’s capricious, unpredictable. You’ve got to roll with the punches.”