May 12, 2013John Simms and Zech Lemond made the margin stand up for a 1-0 Conference USA victory over visiting Memphis in Sunday's series finale at Reckling Park.
For the third time in as many days of the weekend series, Rice and Memphis were deadlocked in scoreless duel in the first half of the contest. The Tigers were looking to be the first on the scoreboard, but Owl senior right fielder Michael Ratterree came up with a big defensive play in the top of the fourth inning. With two outs and runner on second base, Drew Griffin lined a base hit into right. The Tigers rounded third and hustled to home plate, but Ratterree made a sensational run and throw to get the runner and for the third out of the inning.
The Owls put a run on the board two innings later. Senior Christian Stringer led off with a single, and alertly sprinted into scoring position after a long fly-out to left-center field by Ratterree. With two-away, junior Shane Hoelscher punched a base hit into center that scored Stringer for a 1-0 lead.
It was a narrow margin to be sure, but also all the room Simms and Lemond would need on the day. Simms worked into the seventh inning in his eleventh start of the season. The junior right-hander from The Woodlands, Tex., scattered five hits and a pair of walks with six strikeouts in 6.2 frames.
With a runner on base and two away in the seventh, Rice head coach Wayne Graham went to the team's saves leader out of the bullpen. Lemond ended the Tiger seventh with a strikeout and retired a total of sixth straight midway through the ninth. Memphis continued to battle with a two-out base hit by Keaton Aldridge, but Lemond quickly closed out the game. The Houston native struck out two in 2.1 innings for his eleventh save of the season, a mark tied for the third-highest single season save total in school history.
"(John and Zech) saved the day in a game when we only had one run," coach Graham said. "It was a great combined pitching effort on a day when we needed it.
"We wanted to hit better today than we did the first two games of the series," coach Graham added. "We didn't do that so much today, but we did do the most important thing and that is win the game.
"Obviously Mike's throw to get the runner at home was critical, but so was the ball he hit that was deep enough to get Stringer to second base," coach explained. "I thought Mike really hit the ball well all four times today. It's just one of those things where he hit the ball well, but didn't have anything to show for it on the final stat sheet."
Rice improved to 33-17 on the season and 12-9 in C-USA league play. Memphis dropped to 32-20 on the year and 14-10 in conference. The Owls next play at longtime rival Texas State on Tuesday in a non-conference game before ending the regular season with three home games against Marshall next weekend at Reckling Park.