Rice junior John Williamson didn’t appear in Saturday’s game at Tulane until the eighth inning, but his ability to get home from first turned out to be the different maker in a pitchers dual.
Williamson entered the tied contest as a pinch hitter after John Clay Reeves singled to start the eight off Tyler Mapes. Taking out the Owls second leading hitter was a bit of a gamble. Williamson has three stolen bases this season compared to one for Reeves.
Williamson advanced to second on a groundout hit by Ford Stainback, and then he took off for third when Green Wave catcher Jake Rodgers had trouble catching a Mapes pitch. Charlie Warren attempted to bring him home, but he struck out when a two strike bunt went foul.
No. 2 hitter Shane Hoelscher was up next. He hit an infielder chopper. Tulane shortstop Stephen Alemais collected the ball in his glove, but when he went to throw it to first, he dropped the ball. Williamson raced home to put Rice up 2-1.
“Steph will make that play 100 out of 100 times,” Tulane interim coach Jake Gautreau said in a news release. “He may just have taken his eye off of it, I’m not really sure. But I would bet my life on it that he would never not make that play. That’s the way the game goes sometimes, there’s never one person that’s responsible for a loss; it’s a team effort.”
The run gave Blake Fox a lead to work with. At that point, Fox had given up five hits and one run in seven innings of work. The sophomore southpaw retired Tulane’s 8-9-1 hitters in order in the eight inning.
After striking out Richard Carthon to start the ninth, Fox gave up a single to Garrett Deschamp.
Rice coach Wayne Graham took the ball from Fox (8-0) and decided to put in closer Matt Ditman. The move worked perfectly as Andrew Garner flied out and Hunter Hope grounded back to Ditman for the final out. It was Ditman’s sixth save of the season and second of the series.
Rice (25-12) won Friday’s game also by one run. The Owls are now 8-5 in one-run games this season.
Rice is 12-5 in conference play. While the team has the most win of any C-USA school, they are currently in third place as 10-4 UAB and UTSA are a smidge better in winning percentage. The Owls host UAB next weekend.
Rice will go for the series sweep Sunday in New Orleans. Game time is 1 p.m. It will be the final regular season Conference USA game between the two teams. Tulane (14-19) is moving to the American Athletic Conference next school year.