Stanford third baseman Ed Sprague says a second consecutive national championship was beyond his wildest dreams when the Cardinal struggled through the first half of the season.
Dreams, even wild ones, do come true.Seventh-ranked Stanford was there in style at the end and won the NCAA baseball championship with a 9-4 victory over No. 1-ranked Arizona State on Saturday.
"In the middle of the year I would have bet the ranch against us being here again," Sprague said. At one point, Stanford was 19-10 after losing three straight to ASU.
"This is great to come back here to win it two years in a row," Cardinal second baseman Frank Carey said. "You need a lot of intangibles to work. This is unbelievable."
The Cardinal, with a .667 winning percentage this season, had the worst percentage of any World Series champion in the 42-year history of the event. Five of those losses were to Arizona State.
"In 1976, we beat Arizona seven times during the regular season and they beat us for the right to play in the championship game," ASU coach Jim Brock said. "I still think back on that game as a fluke. I don't feel that way at all about this situation. There was not question in my mind or anyone's mind that Stanford had an outstanding ball club."
Coach Mark Marquess' team made the CWS a tournament of paybacks for regular-season losses. During the season, the Cardinal were 5-14 against other teams in the tournament but were 5-1 against those teams in the CWS.
"We played one of the toughest schedules in the nation and that paid off for us," Marquess said. "The turning point in the year was to come back against Fordham (n the Northeast Regional) in a tough game after losing to St. John's earlier in the day."
Stanford freshman Stan Spencer handcuffed top-ranked Arizona State for seven innings and Sprague hit his 22nd homer of the year.
Stanford became the first team to win successive titles since Southern California won five straight from 1970-1974, and it was the first time that two teams from the same conference, in this case the Pac-10, played in the championship game.
Spencer, 7-2, allowed only six hits and one unearned run through seven innings. After giving up a three-run homer to Steve Willis in the eighth, he was replaced by reliever Steve Chitren.
"This was a dream come true, but it also could have been a nightmare," Spencer said. "I didn't feel quite as nervous as I did against Miami in my first World Series game. But I didn't do too well against Arizona State this year, either.
"I was in the hotel restaurant last night and some guy who was here watching the tournament was talking about the 19 runs scored against Wichita State on 23 hits. He said the way it usually works in baseball is they come out and get shut out the next day," Spencer said. "I looked at my teammate and said I wish I shared his confidence."
Chitren, who lost two of three decisions to the Sun Devils during the year, allowed one hit in two innings for his 11th save.
Stanford chased Arizona State's postseason pitching ace Rusty Kilgo, 12-3, in the first inning. Frank Carey led off with a single and scored on Sprague's third homer of the World Series.
Ron Witmeyer's run-scoring single ended Kilgo's bid for a 5-0 postseason record and Blas Minor, who relieved, was victimized by Brian Johnson's two-run double.
Carey singled again to lead off the second. He moved to third on Troy Paulsen's single and scored on Paul Carey's sacrifice fly.
The Cardinal added two more runs in the third on a run-scoring double by Tim Griffin and a wild pitch by Linty Ingram, ASU's third pitcher.
Ingram, the winningest pitcher in college baseball at 17-5, shut the Cardinal down until DeGraw singled, stole second and scored one out later on Paulsen's single in the sixth for a 9-1 Stanford lead.
ASU scored three runs in the eighth inning when Willis homered after a walk to John Finn and Kevin Higgins' single.
When Dan Rumsey followed with a bloop single, Chitren came on. Chitren, who also saved Stanford's championship game in 1987, got Martin Peralta to line into a double play and Tim Spehr to fly out.
Chitren, who did not give up an earned run in five postseason appearances over 12 2-3 innings, allowed a two-out single to Pat Listach in the ninth.
It was Arizona State's ninth championship game. The Sun Devils won titles in 1965, 1967, 1969, 1977 and 1981.
Stanford made the CWS a tournament of paybacks for regular-season losses. During the season, the Cardinal were 5-14 against other teams in the tournament but were 5-1 against those teams in the Series.
Arizona State, 60-13, won the Pac 10 Southern Division title while Stanford finished second.
Other than Stanford and Southern Cal, only Texas has won successive titles, which it accomplished in 1949 and 1950.