June 1, 2008
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Sophomore catcher Chris Wallace blasted a two-run double off the center-field wall in the 11th inning to break a tie and help lift the University of Houston baseball team to a 14-11 win over Illinois-Chicago in an elimination game Sunday afternoon at the NCAA College Station Regional at Olsen Field.
Junior infielder Jimmy Cesario started the rally with a leadoff single through the right side and moved into scoring position following senior second baseman Ryan Lormand's sacrifice bunt. After sophomore centerfielder Zak Presley drew a walk and senior DH Bryan Tully reached on an infield single to load the bases, Wallace blasted a 2-0 offering from UIC reliever Adam Worthington off the top of the center-field wall, mere feet from his first grand slam, to score Cesario and Presley and give the Cougars the lead for good.
That would be all the run support that the Cougars would need. Freshman closer Chase Dempsay forced the leadoff batter to ground out before leaving the game after being struck in the foot by a line drive. Freshman righthander Jared Ray, who will start Sunday night's championship game against No. 9 Texas A&M entered the contest and eventually forced a groundout and fly ball to end the game.
Dempsay collected the win and improved to 8-3 after limiting the Flames to one unearned run off two hits with a strikeout in two innings. The Baytown native, who already set a UH freshman record with 11 saves to date, also set a UH freshman record in saves, topping the seven victories recorded by Shane Nance in 1997.
UIC appeared to grab all of the game's momentum in the bottom of the ninth inning, rallying from a four-run deficit to force extra frames. After loading the bases with two outs, Tony Altavilla lifted a looping single into shallow right field that scored two runners. Kevin Coddington then scored and Altavilla moved to third when the Cougar throw from the outfield bounced into the UIC dugout.
Altavilla scored the tying run moments later on a Dempsay wild pitch to force extra frames.
Wallace went 3-for-4 with a run, three RBIs and his first career home run, while senior outfielder Jake Stewart went 3-for-6 with two runs and two RBIs. Cesario batted 2-for-5 with a double, three runs and an RBI, while Lormand batted 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.
Ramsey also went 2-for-5 with a run and two RBIs to lead a Cougar offense, which outhit the Flames 16-11.
Worthingon collected the loss for UIC and fell to 2-4 after giving up five runs off seven hits and three walks with a pair of strikeouts in two innings.
Brett Schaefer went 3-for-5 with a run, double and RBI, while Jake Carr batted 2-for-5 with a run and RBI.
With the win, the Cougars improved to 41-23 and won for the 11th time in their last 13 games. The Cougars must now defeat No. 9 Texas A&M twice - beginning at 7:15 P.M., Sunday - to advance to the NCAA Super Regional against the winner of the NCAA Houston Regional.
UH also won for the sixth time in its last seven NCAA postseason games at Olsen Field. In 2003, UH rallied to win the last five games on the way to claiming the title of the NCAA College Station Regional.
UIC concluded its season with a 35-22 record.
Fans can hear all Cougar Baseball games live at UHCougars.com by clicking the appropriate links. Jeremy Branham will call the play-by-play action while former letterwinner Pat Cauley provides color analysis.
Fans always can follow live stats by clicking on the Gametracker link.
In addition to the internet broadcast, FSN Plus will show Sunday night's championship game. The game will be available throughout the region and nationwide live on DirecTV Ch. 660 nationwide, Dish Network Ch. 450 nationwide and Fox College Sports Central nationwide.
Will Johnson will call the play-by-play action with Alan Cannon providing color analysis with the broadcast feed of 12th Man Video Productions.
For the first time in the Regional, the Cougars grabbed the first lead with a pair of runs in the first inning, courtesy of a two-out rally. Bryan Pounds drew a walk and raced all the way from first base when Cesario smashed a double to the wall in left center. Lormand then lined an RBI-single single into right center to score Cesario for a 2-0 Cougar lead.
The lead did not last long as the Flames score two runs on their own in the bottom of the frame, courtesy of Schaefer's RBI-groundout and Coddington's two-out, RBI-single up the middle.
The Cougars regained the lead in the top of the second with four runs off three this. Bryan Tully walked and moved into scoring position after Wallace' sacrifice bunt. After a hustling Ramsey beat out an infield single, Stewart lined a two-out single through the left side to plate Stewart. Pounds then launched a 2-2 offering over the wall in center field to hand the Cougars a 6-2 advantage.
The Flames pulled to within 6-5 in the bottom of the frame with three runs off Jason Ganek's two-run triple and a sacrifice fly from Steve McGuiggan.
In the fourth inning, the Cougars pushed their lead to 7-5 when Wallace blasted an 0-2 offering over the wall in center field for the first home run of his career.
Carr's RBI-single through the right side scored McGuiggan in the fourth inning, cutting the Cougar lead to 7-6.
But the Cougars answered in the top of the sixth with two runs, thanks to two hits and three UIC errors. Presley led off with a single up the middle and moved into scoring position after an errant pickoff attempt. After Tully reached on the second UIC miscue, Wallace moved both runners up with his second sacrifice bunt, and Ramsey's sacrifice fly to center field plated Presley.
After Kelso reached on the final UIC error, Stewart lined an RBI-single up the middle to score Tully and hand the Cougars a 9-6 lead.
In the seventh inning, the Flames trimmed the Cougar lead to 9-7 when Carr scored from second when UH retired the lead runner on a double-play attempt but the relay throw to first base sailed wide.
The Cougars doubled their lead in the ninth inning with two more runs off a pair of hits. Stewart led off with a single through the left side and stole second. After an intentional walk to Cesario, Lormand slapped a double down the left-field line to score Stewart. Presley was intentionally passed to load the bases, and Tully reached on a fielder's choice that scored Cesario from third for an 11-7 Cougar advantage.
The Cougars would need all four of those runs in the bottom of the ninth as the Flames knotted the game to force extra innings