HOUSTON - Sophomore Ford Stainback delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift Rice to a 1-0 victory against visiting California and preserve a complete-game shutout by junior pitcher Chase McDowell on Monday at Reckling Park.
McDowell and four California pitchers had both teams in a scoreless deadlock for eight innings. Cal’s Devin Pearson led off the top of the ninth with a base hit and advanced around the stations to third before McDowell worked out of the jam with an infield groundout.
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 high chopper up the middle off Cal pitcher Ryan Wertenberger. The Golden Bears attempted to make a play, but Byrd hustled down the line for a base hit with Perrott reaching safely at second.
Rice head coach Wayne Graham elected to go with pinch-runner John Williamson for Perrott to get a little more speed in scoring position — especially with Stainback due up next to hit. A week earlier, Stainback provided the late hit in a 17-inning marathon the Owls won at Hawaii 2-0. He delivered once again, this time by lining a pitch through the right side. Williamson sped around the bases before diving head first at home.
McDowell scattered just five singles without allowing any walks. He struck out only two, but induced 16 ground ball outs with one double play.
“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 [Perrott] called a great game [defensively],” Graham said. “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.