It isn't every day that a team spots an All-American pitcher with a 14-1 record a three-run lead in the first inning, battles back against him to take the lead, then goes on to win the game.
The victory advanced Stanford into the College World Series title game tonight against Oklahoma State, which beat the Cardinal, 6-2, Thursday night.
It'll be Stanford's first appearance in the final. This is the Cardinal's sixth College World Series. Their best previous finish was third place in 1967.
The first baseman on that club was an All-American named Mark Marquess, who happens to be the current Cardinal coach. He said that when Texas took the 3-0 lead, he thought his team's season was over.
"I was concerned because they were swinging the bat very aggressively . . . they were swinging hard and hitting the ball well," he said.
"I thought it was real important that (Ed) Sprague hit that homer in the bottom of the inning. It got us on the board right away, and we knew we were still in it."
The home run by Sprague, Stanford's sophomore third baseman, was one of nine Cardinal hits. That may not seem like many, but it's more than they had been getting here. And some of the biggest hits were by those who hadn't contributed much.
Sprague's homer was his 16th of the season. He entered the Series as Stanford's leader in runs batted-in with 67, but before the homer, he was only 2 for 15 with no RBIs in the series.
Sophomore second baseman Frank Carey got what proved to be the game-winning hit, a two-run triple into the right-field corner with two out in the fourth inning. Before that at bat, Carey was 3 for 15 with 1 RBI.
With two out in the sixth inning, Toi Cook, who was just 2 for 17 with no RBIs going into the game, and hitless in his first three trips, tripled to the wall in dead center field to drive in two runs and make the score 7-3.
It takes more than offense to win games, and Stanford played some good defense and got a strong relief performance from left-hander Al Osuna. Osuna relieved starter Lee Plemel in the first inning and went he rest of the way, scattering 9 hits, walking just 2 and striking out 8.
The Cardinal committed three errors, one contributing to a Texas run, but they turned four double plays, which kept the Longhorns from scoring after the first inning.
One came in the third inning with the bases loaded when Lenny Bell hit a line drive back to Osuna, who turned quickly and doubled Mike Patrick off first base to end the threat.
"There's nothing more important than a double play," Marquess said. "And the four of them broke their back."
Texas Coach Cliff Gustafson, who was seeking his third national championship and the school's fifth, also said that the Stanford defense played a big part in the outcome of the game.
"There's no question that the four double plays had an effect on the game. We had opportunities, but couldn't get any clutch hits. The key difference in the ballgame was they delivered with the two-out hits to get the 7-3 lead."
College World Series Notes
The NCAA and the City of Omaha have agreed on a new one-year contract that will keep the College World Series in Omaha. The agreement ended speculation that the event would be moved elsewhere, possibly to the Minneapolis Metrodome. As part of the agreement, the city guaranteed to make over $3 million worth of improvements to Rosenblatt Stadium by 1989. They include an additional 2,000 seats that will increase the capacity to 17,300, a field view stadium club, and 600-700 new parking spaces. This is the 41st College World Series, and the 38th held in Omaha.
This is the 15th appearance for Oklahoma State. Only Texas (24) and USC (17) have played in more. It's also the Cowboys' seventh straight appearance, a series record. The Cowboys won in 1959 and finished second three times. . . . Texas has won four titles. Only USC (11) and Arizona State (5) have won more. The Longhorns also have finished second three times. Texas had a 56-41 series record going into Saturday night's game. USC's record is 63-19. . . . With two games left, the cumulative series batting average is only .257 (229 for 890). Individually, Oklahoma State has the top two hitters. First baseman Jimmy Barragan is batting .533 (8 for 15) and second baseman Brad Beanblossom has a .500 average (7 for 14). The Cowboys, who came into the series with a .353 team average, are hitting .299.
Oklahoma State's loss to Texas Friday means that in the 38 years under the present double-elimination format, 30 champions will have lost one game. The only undefeated champions were USC in 1961, 1968, 1973 and 1978, Oklahoma in 1951, California in 1957, Miami (Fla.) in 1982 and Texas in 1983. . . . Texas outfielder Brian Cisarik's first-inning single was his 104th hit of the season, breaking the Southwest Conference record set by Keith Moreland of the Longhorns in 1974. Cisarik, who entered the game with a .438 series average (7 for 16), homered for Texas' only run off Lee Plemel in last Tuesday's 6-1 loss to Stanford.