May 29, 2009

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Wounded Ojala, Mozingo lead Owls

By Allen Brown

Special to

HOUSTON – Junior righty Mike Ojala pitched seven strong innings, and Chad Mozingo went 3 for 4 to lead Rice to a 5-2 win over pesky Sam Houston State.


 Ojala, who has yet to lose a game in his three-year career, has been pitching for over a month with a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. His velocity has suffered, and he is limited in the amount of pitches he can throw.


Ojala said he “has had to learn how to pitch” and take a more cerebral approach on the mound since his injury. Ojala (5-0) tossed seven innings, yielding only one earned run on seven hits. He said that his arm “felt as good as it is going to feel” and that the adrenaline of the postseason also helped him battle through seven innings.


The Owls (40-15), who have struggled recently in the bullpen, turned to junior righty Mark Haynes for the eighth and ninth innings, and Haynes was effective, allowing a run on two hits in his first save of the year.


Mozingo recently broke his right hand while batting. He wore tape with a protective pad on his right hand during the game. Mozingo shrugged off the effects of the tape and pad on his swing.


 “The [injury] keeps him from trying to hit home runs all the time and focus on hitting line drives,” Owls coach Wayne Graham said.


The second batter of the game for Sam Houston State, third baseman Ryan Mooney, hit a home run to left field to briefly give the Bearkats (36-23) a 1-0 lead. Rice countered with single runs in the second, third and fifth innings. The Owls also plated two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth inning on a RBI single by Ryan Lewis and a bases-loaded walk to Brock Holt.


Freshman righty Sean Weatherford (8-6) had an impressive start for Bearkats, working into the seventh inning with eight hits, a walk, two earned runs and seven strikeouts.


“Sean threw the ball really well…he stayed within himself…he gave us a chance to win,” Sam Houston State coach Mark Johnson said.


Mooney (3 for 4) was the lone hitting star for the Bearkats as he went 3 for 4.


Graham, who called Sam Houston State “the toughest No. 4 seed in the country,” lauded the “courageous performances” of both Mozingo and Ojala.


The Owls’ pitching is now lined up well for the remainder of the weekend, with Ryan Berry available to start on Saturday and Taylor Wall available on Sunday.


When questioned about the Owls’ matchup on Saturday with Kansas State and the prospects of facing its ace A.J. Morris, Graham said, “It will be a challenge, but I kind of like our guy, too.”


Berry is 7-0 on the season for Rice.