June 7, 2003
HOUSTON - Cole Bruce blasted a three-run homer, and Danny Zell pitched seven strong innings as the University of Houston baseball team upset Rice 5-2 in the first game of the NCAA Super Regional at Houston at Rice's Reckling Park.
Zell, who gave the Cougars at least six innings for the 14th time in 17 starts this season, improved to 9-5 after scattering two runs (one earned) off seven hits with three strikeouts. When the Owls scored their only two runs of the game in the sixth inning, it snapped a 15.2 consecutive inning scoreless streak against Rice during his two-year collegiate career.
Meanwhile, Bruce broke a close game open in the sixth inning with a three-run homer, part of a four-run inning for the Cougars. The Clute, Texas, native finished the night 2-for-4 with two runs, three RBIs and the game's only extra-base hit.
With the win, the Cougars are only one win away from advancing to the NCAA College World Series for the first time since 1967. The Super Regional continues at 2 p.m., Sunday with Game Three, if necessary, slated to begin at 12:05 p.m., Monday.
The series can be heard live on KAXF 88.3 FM or over the Internet at www.UHcougars.com. Fans also can follow the action through live stats at www.NCAAsports.com or by clicking on that link on the Cougar web site.
The Cougars also snapped an eight-game losing streak to Rice at Reckling Park dating back to Feb. 8, 2000. Now UH looks to post consecutive wins against Rice, something it has not done since the 2001 regular season.
Zell kept the Owls off balance throughout the game and retired 10 consecutive batters early in the contest. Together, he and closer Ryan Wagner held a potent Rice offense, which was batting .320 entering Saturday's game, to only seven hits and two runs.
The Cougar offense continued its recent hot play with 10 hits, the fourth time in the last five games that UH recorded double-digit hits.
The Cougars struck for the game's first run in the second inning, thanks to a pair of hits. Bruce led off with a single through the left side and moved all the way to third on Brad Sullivan's single to left field. After a strikeout and Sullivan was caught stealing, Bruce scored the game's first run when Humber uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop.
In the sixth inning, UH pushed its lead to 5-0 off three hits. After posting his second infield single of the game, Michael Bourn moved all the way to third when Travis Tully reached safely on a sacrifice attempt. Hyung Cho then plated Bourn with a single up the middle for a 2-0 lead.
Bruce then blasted the first pitch he saw from Humber in the inning over the left field wall to send the Cougar portion of the 4,427 fans into hysterics.
In the bottom of the inning, Rice rebounded and pulled to within 5-2. Enrique Cruz started the scoring with an RBI single, and Austin Davis' infield groundout plated Vincent Sinisi for Rice's second run of the inning. The Owls continued to threaten with runners on first and third, but Zell struck out pinch hitter Jeff Blackinton and forced Dane Bubela to foul out to catcher Nick Bott to end the threat.
That would be as close as the Owls would get the rest of the night. After Zell allowed a leadoff single in the eighth, Wagner slammed the door on the Rice offense as he tossed two perfect innings with four strikeouts for his record 15th save of the season.