June 6, 1998
By TIM KORTE
Associated Press Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - After Southern California went two decades without a championship, Jason Lane needed only one unbelievable week to restore order for the nation's most decorated baseball program.
Lane's grand slam capped a five-run ninth inning as the Trojans won their first NCAA title in 20 years, beating Pac-10 rival Arizona State 21-14 Saturday in the College World Series.
Wes Rachels went 5-for-7 with a championship game-record seven RBIs as the Trojans (49-17) won their NCAA-best 12th baseball title by outlasting the Sun Devils (41-23) in a 39-hit shootout.
"It couldn't be more special," said a tearful USC coach Mike Gillespie. "I can't express how thankful we are to the guys. They did a tremendous job. I'm sort of speechless."
Lane (9-2) led the CWS with a .517 batting average in six games and had a win and a save. His 15 hits set a series record and he also had four homers to tie teammate Brad Ticehurst for most this series.
When USC beat LSU 7-3 to eliminate the two-time defending champions on Friday, Lane homered twice, then took the mound in the eighth to stop a two-out rally. The victory put the Trojans in the title game.
On Saturday, he replaced starter Rik Currier in the second and pitched 2 1-3 innings to become the pitcher of record for the Trojans, while going 3-for-6 with a single and double.
When his grand slam cleared the fence in right-center, Lane pumped his fists as he circled the bases. In a game of offensive surges on both sides, he had finally put USC over the top.
"I had a pretty good idea that it might get it done," Lane said. "We've played each other a few times and we knew what we needed to get offensively."
The teams combined to set 35 CWS records and tied another 17 in a game that epitomized college baseball: Hits flying off aluminum bats and no lead ever being safe.
"It's definitely a sign of the times," Arizona State coach Pat Murphy said. "You're at a point of the season where everybody is swinging it so good. You hit a routine fly ball and it goes out of the ballpark."
Even an early 8-0 lead didn't stand up for USC. The Sun Devils rallied behind a second-inning grand slam by Michael Collins, and pulled to 9-8 on a two-run homer by Jeff Phelps in the fourth.
"An eight-run lead wasn't enough," said Rachels, named most outstanding player of the CWS. "A six-run lead wasn't enough. A three-run lead wasn't enough. Emotions were high all day long."
Southern California got a momentum boost in the seventh when Morgan Ensberg stole home with the bases loaded and two outs. He faked the steal on three pitches. Gillespie said the play was planned.
"We've actually done it before," he said. "Despite the fact that it obviously makes no sense, it's been remarkably successful for us."
That made it 12-8, and Rachels followed with a single to left field, driving in two more runs.
The Sun Devils answered in the bottom of the seventh with a lob single to left field by Rudy Arguelles that scored Casey Myers and Greg Halvorson. Andrew Beinbrink then hit a two-out, two-run homer into the right field light tower to make it 14-13.
Still, the outcome was uncertain until the Trojans came to bat in the top of the ninth with a 17-14 lead.
Robb Gorr, who earlier had homered twice, reached on a fielder's choice and took second on a single by Eric Munson. Ensberg doubled, driving in Gorr to extend the lead.
Ticehurst walked and Lane followed with the home run off Sun Devils reliever Chuck Crompton that just cleared the wall.
Trojans reliever Jack Krawcyzk got the final five outs, setting NCAA records with his 23rd save of the season and 49th of his career.
Gorr added two home runs and Jeremy Freitas was 5-for-6 with four singles and double.
USC, which lost 12-10 to LSU in the series opener, became the first school since Arizona in 1980 to lose its first game but come back to win the tournament.
Gorr started the Trojans with a three-run homer in the first off Ryan Mills (8-4), the ace of the Arizona State staff and the sixth overall pick in last week's amateur draft by the Minnesota Twins.
Murphy, who on Friday claimed USC players and staff had stolen signs as the teams split six games this season, denied any no link between stolen signs and the loss.
"It definitely did not decide today's game," Murphy said. "We gave up 21 runs. That's what did it."
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