March 4, 2013Ford Stainback delivered a clutch RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Rice Owls baseball team to a 1-0 victory over visiting California and preserve a sensational complete-game shutout by junior pitcher Chase McDowell Monday afternoon at Reckling Park in Houston.
McDowell and four California pitchers had both teams in a scoreless deadlock for eight full innings. Cal's Devin Pearson led off the top of the ninth with a base hit, and he advanced around the stations to third before McDowell worked out of the jam with an infield grounder.
In the Owls half of the ninth junior catcher Geoff Perrott lined a one-out single through the left side for his career-best 4-for-4 day at the plate. Freshman Leon Byrd followed with a hard and high chopper back up the middle of the field that that struck and deflected off the Cal pitcher. The Golden Bears alertly attempted to make a play, but it was all the time Byrd needed to hustle down the line for a base hit with Perrott reaching safely at second.
Perrott was 4-for-4 at the plate and had called the game like the experienced senior catcher he is, , but Rice head coach Wayne Graham elected to go with pinch-runner John Williamson for Perrott to get a little more speed from scoring position - especially with Stainback due up next to hit. A week earlier Stainback provided the late-hit in the 17-inning marathon the Owls won at Hawaii 2-0. The Dallas native delivered once again, this time by lining a pitch through the right side. Williamson sped around the bases to reach home plate.
Coach Graham had praise for the team pulling out another fireworks-finish, but also for the Owls' overall defensive effort that kept Cal in check just one day after the Golden Bears scored 13 runs in a win at Minute Maid Park. He had particularly high praise for McDowell in firing a complete-game gem. The College Station, Tex., native scattered just five singles without allowing any walks. He struck out only two, but didn't particularly need to post a high-K total when his Owl teammates in the infield were getting him 16 ground ball outs with one double play. McDowell had only reached 91 pitches on the day.
"It was great to win it, and Stainback had a great at bat at the end," coach Graham said. "The real story was McDowell, pitching a wonderful ballgame. He mixed his pitches very well, and he got stronger as the game went-on. He was very efficient with just 91 pitches, and he did not walk a man. That is so important when any runs are at a premium.
"Geoff called a great game (defensively)," coach Graham added. "He also went 4-for-4 at the plate. To me that's playing a complete game too."
Joining Perrott with multiple hits were Byrd, Michael Aquino and Christian Stringer with two-hits each. The team's 12 total hits were one-off the season-high and Owls' fourth time to reach double-digits. Rice improved to 7-5 overall. Cal dropped to 5-7 on the young season.
After four games in four days Rice next returns to action on Wednesday (March 6). The Owls host longtime rival Sam Houston State at Reckling Park to close out the brief two-game homestand. First pitch with the Bearkats is scheduled for 6:30 pm.