Home cookin' on the mound in Houston nightcap

May, 30, 2009
HOUSTON -- David Sitton hopes to be able to sit behind home plate Saturday night at Reckling Park and blend into the surroundings as much as possible.

But it's going to be a little tough for the head baseball coach at nearby Humble High School to not feel a little proud. Especially when his former pitchers, A.J. Morris of Kansas State and Ryan Berry of Rice, square off in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

"I think this is gonna be about as cool as cool can get," said Sitton, who has coached at Humble for 25 seasons.

Morris was a year ahead of Berry in high school. During his senior season in 2005, he and Berry were key members of the Humble team that advanced to the regionals before being eliminated by Kingwood.

During a breakout season at KSU, Morris has developed into an All-American pitcher. He won his first 11 games en route to a 13-1 record with a 1.84 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings.

Berry has been almost as good, although he has struggled with a sore shoulder that kept him out for about six weeks earlier this season. Berry is 7-0 with two shutouts, allowing only 37 hits in 66 2/3 innings, and opponents have hit only .162 against him.

"I think both of those guys are in that small nest of the best guys who have come through here, especially because of what they have done in college," Sitton said. "If they advance and continue to play well in pro ball, I'll take my hat off to them and give them an 'at-a-boy.' Both are incredible kids from outstanding families."

Morris is throwing to his old high school catcher, Rob Vaughn, who played on those Humble teams as well.

Berry and Morris never thought they would face each other when they were playing on the same team in high school. But Sitton said that such a meeting might foreshadow other matchups after both players likely embark on professional careers.

"I think it's real possible for both of them," Sitton said. "Both of them are up on draft lists pretty high. Something that's happening today they might not have thought would happen this quick. But when you've been in baseball as long as I've been, you'll find out you'll face your friends."

And despite all of his former players seeing action in the pivotal second-round game, Sitton said he's going to remain neutral once the game begins.

"I'm going to be wearing neutral colors and just sitting behind home plate taking everything in," Sitton said. "What happens is supposed to happen."

After winning the first tournament game in the 109-season history of the Kansas State program on Friday, the Wildcats (42-16-1) will be looking to advance into the winners' bracket Sunday night.

To do so, they will have to beat Rice (40-15), which claimed its 13th straight regional game yesterday in a first-round victory over Sam Houston State.

The game will be played before a large crowd of Rice fans at Reckling Park -- and a few Humble fans who will be rooting for the Wildcats.

Here are the starting lineups. Kansas State will be the visiting team.

Kansas State Wildcats (42-16-1)

Adam Muenster DH
Carter Jurica 2B
Nick Martini LF
Justin Bloxom 1B
Jason King 3B
Drew Biery SS
Jordan Cruz RF
Rob Vaughn C
Dane Yelovich CF
A.J. Morris RHP (13-1, 1.84 ERA)

Rice Owls (40-15)
Brock Holt 2B
Rick Hague SS
Diego Seastrunk DH
Anthony Rendon 3B
Chad Mozingo RF
Michael Fuda LF
Craig Manuel C
Steven Sultzbaugh CF
Jimmy Comerota 1B
Ryan Berry RHP (7-0, 1.89 ERA)

HP: Jack Cox
1B: Dave Savage
2B: Mark Chapman
3B: Scott Cline

Weather conditions: partly cloudy, 91 degrees, 32 percent humidity, winds from the north at 4 mph.



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