June 6, 2010

Courtesy of Rice Athletics

AUSTIN - Finally, Rice senior righthander Mike Ojala got his complete game.

It took perseverance against the wilting Central Texas heat and some coaxing of Rice coach Wayne Graham, but Ojala finished what he started for the first time, scattering five hits in a 9-1 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in an elimination game at Disch-Falk Field Sunday afternoon.

Ojala (6-2) was making his 34th career start and his 10th this season after undergoing ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction last June. As he regained strength in his right elbow and reclaimed the dominant form he flashed before tearing the ligament midway through his junior season, Ojala began lobbying Graham to let him go the distance.

With temperatures in the mid-90s and Ojala admittedly running on fumes, Graham strolled to the mound with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to check on the Kingwood High product one last time. Ojala cut off Graham near the third-base line with a sincere proposition.

"I made a deal with him," Ojala said of the meeting following his one-out walk to Ragin' Cajuns catcher Chad Keefer. "I said, `If I don't get this guy, you can pull me out.' And he goes, `Alright.' And I go, `If I get this guy, I get the next guy, too.' And he goes, `OK, OK.' And he got out of there."

Ojala induced a fly ball off the bat of pinch hitter Trask Switzenberg to Chad Mozingo in right field for the second out of the ninth, and then carved up another pinch hitter, Brian Bowman, for his ninth strikeout. Ojala retired 12 consecutive hitters in the middle of his 114-pitch effort.

Early and late he relied on his defense. Freshman second baseman Michael Ratterree made a sparkling diving stab of a Justin Robichaux line drive in the second before springing to his feet and making a throw to first base that Jimmy Comerota scooped to double off Tyler Frederick. The Owls turned another double play in support of Ojala in the eighth before sophomore third baseman Anthony Rendon produced his gem.