OMAHA, Neb. -- The old adage that pitching and defense are what win championships is proving true at the College World Series.
Through three games in the tournament, Stanford committed just one error, while the Cardinal pitching staff had a 3.81 ERA, third best in the eight-team field. A second error came in Wednesday's semifinal against Cal State Fullerton, but the four-hit pitching of John Hudgins (13-3) more than made up for that in a 5-3 win that kept the Cardinal alive in the double-elimination format.
Rice, however, went one better.
The Owls won their first two games without committing an error and with a staff ERA of 2.00. Rice found itself among the last four teams despite a .242 batting average, second-lowest among the eight teams.
Rice ranked second in NCAA Division I this spring in team fielding (.980) and ERA (2.74).
Texas is third in fielding with three errors in three games, and fourth in pitching with a 4.67 ERA.
Cal State Fullerton's pitching rated second overall with an ERA of 3.50, making up for three errors by the Titans in their first two games. The .959 CWS fielding average for Fullerton, however, was below the team's .972 for the season. The Titans ranked third nationally in team ERA this spring (2.75) and were 15th in fielding.
Stanford (.336) and Fullerton (.311) were the CWS team leaders in hitting heading into Wednesday.
SOLO HOMERS: When Stanford's Carlos Quentin and Cal State Fullerton's P.J. Pilittere homered in Wednesday's Bracket One semifinal, theirs were the 25th and 26th home runs of the 2003 CWS. They also were the 25th and 26th players to hit them.
Quentin homered again later Wednesday to become the first two-homer hitter in the series.
It has been a rare occurrence to go through the tournament with no player hitting two homers. The last time was 1974, when only eight homers were hit in the entire CWS.
While Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium has a reputation of being a park where college players launch a healthy number of homers, the CWS individual record for any given series is four. That is shared by seven players, the last being Stanford's Edmond Muth, who hit four in four games in 2000.
One big factor in keeping the homer total low this year has been a consistent wind blowing in from center field.
FULLERTON-STANFORD: Not many teams sweep Stanford in any given baseball season. The last team to do that was Pac-10 Conference foe Southern California, which took all six games from the Cardinal in 1997.
Stanford and Cal State Fullerton opened their 2003 baseball season with a three-game series at Fullerton with the Titans taking all three. And those three really weren't that close.
Fullerton won 7-3, 10-2 and 8-2.
The first meeting at the College World Series, however, ended in a 6-5 Titans victory. That also was the first time Fullerton had beaten the Cardinal in five postseason meetings.
Stanford broke the string Wednesday, however, with a 5-3 win in what was an elimination game for the Cardinal. The win forced a fifth meeting of the teams on Thursday, one that will decide who advances to the CWS championship.
"This was big for us," Stanford catcher Ryan Garko said. "When a team beats you four times, you start thinking what do you have to do to beat those guys."
TENT VILLAGE: Fans watching the College World Series on television see the Henry Doorly Zoo's Desert Dome across the street down the right field line of Rosenblatt Stadium. What they do not see is the tent village that has grown elsewhere around the traditional home of the CWS.
With vendors selling caps, T-shirts, souvenirs and a variety of food, the tents stretch for more than two blocks along 13th Street adjacent to the stadium.
With record crowds attending the games, some vendors say their business has been excellent, while others label it slow.
Jill Mueller, cooking for the Samurai Sam's, said it was the restaurant's first experience with a food tent at the CWS.
"We really didn't know what to expect," she said. "It's been pretty slow, but the people who try us come back. Much of our business has been to repeat offenders. We'll be back."
The CWS pumps an estimated $16 million each year into Omaha's economy.
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