Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, June 7, 2001


Komine looks forward
to first CWS appearance

By Jack Denker
Special to the Star-Bulletin

OMAHA, Neb. >> Nebraska baseball coach Dave Van Horn has come to expect big things from junior right-hander Shane Komine.

But even Van Horn was awed by the performance turned in by Komine last Friday in pitching the Huskers to the school's first-ever College World Series appearance. Komine held Rice to three hits, and struck out 12 in a 7-0 Nebraska win before a record crowd of 5,353 at Buck Beltzer Field in Lincoln, Neb.

"Shane was in total control against Rice," Van Horn said. "He's our ace. When you've got a guy like Shane, you've always got a chance for a win. We wouldn't be here without him.

"He was a gift to our program. I appreciate everything Shane has done for our program."

The Honolulu native threw a career-high 162 pitches against Rice to improve to 14-1 this season.

Already the school record holder for career strikeouts (386), Komine broke NU marks for consecutive wins (14), most victories in a season (14) and most career victories (31) last week.

"The Rice game gave me a lot of confidence," Komine said. "I thought I pitched very well against a really good offensive team. Going into this week, I am just fine-tuning my mechanics in order to do the same things as I did against Rice."

Komine's performance justified the faith that Van Horn had in him. The coach admitted he thought about going to the bullpen in the eighth inning when Komine, with his pitch count running high, put the first two Owls he faced on base.

"He wanted to stay out there," Van Horn said. "He's the one who got us here, so we decided to listen to him. I'm glad we did."

Van Horn said he hopes Komine can continue his dominance this week as Nebraska (50-14), the No. 8 seed, makes its College World Series debut against top-seeded Cal State Fullerton (46-16) at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Rosenblatt Stadium. Fullerton won the Big West Conference and will be playing in its 11th CWS.

The first-round pitching match-up pits Komine against Titan senior Kirk Saarloos (15-2).

Saarloos, the staff ace, served as Fullerton's closer until this season and starred on the U.S. National Team last summer. The 6-foot right-hander has struck out 150 batters and walked 23 in 14423 innings this season. Opposing batters hit .183 against him.

"Fullerton has a very good hitting team and a strong pitching rotation," Komine said. "I plan to do whatever I have done the last couple of weeks against them. I'm feeling very relaxed heading into this game."

The 20-year-old Komine, a two-time All-American and Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, was named Oahu Interscholastic Association East Player of the Year in 1998 while playing at Kalani High School. He will enter Friday's game boasting a 3.27 ERA, with 148 strikeouts in 12323 innings.

"When he pitches well he can match-up with anybody," Van Horn said. "He has four pitches that he can throw for strikes. The key for Shane against Fullerton will be for him to get ahead in the count. Fullerton is a great team. They will be tough to beat. We will have to play a great game. I told our players to be loose, and play hard all the time, just like we did in the super regional last weekend. I know our team will not be intimidated."

One of six Husker players taken on the first day of baseball's 50-round, first-year-player draft, Komine slipped to the 19th-round (584th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals).

Apparently Komine -- listed at 5-foot-10 -- still has plenty of doubters among professional baseball scouts who remain skeptical about short right-handed pitchers because of the possibility of injury. And Komine has had back problems in the past.

Komine said he will not let his low draft selection bother him during the CWS.

"I'm going to take this game as just another weekend start," Komine said. "My one focus will be to give the team a chance to win. It's not hard to put the draft behind me, because the draft doesn't bother me. It's just something that happened and I'm glad it's over. I'm looking forward to Friday's game. I think we have a great chance (against Fullerton) as long as we play the way we have been playing, we'll be fine."

College World Series

At Rosenblatt Stadium
Omaha, Neb.
All Times HST
Double elimination


Game 1 -- Stanford (48-16) vs. Tulane (55-11), 9 a.m., ESPN
Game 2 -- Cal State Fullerton (46-16) vs. Nebraska (50-14), 1 p.m., ESPN


Game 3 -- Southern California (44-17) vs. Georgia (47-20), 7:30 a.m., CBS
Game 4 -- Miami (49-12) vs. Tennessee (46-18), 1:30 p.m., ESPN2

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