The Cajuns (42-21), who will take on LSU next weekend in search of the program's second-ever berth in the College World Series, will head to Baton Rouge riding the wave of an eight-game win streak after taking down the Owls (37-22) for the second time in four days.
"We knew Rice would come out and grind with us, but one of the advantages we had was that the game last night took so long for them," Louisiana head coach Tony Robichaux said. "But you have to give them credit for being able to turn around on such a short timeframe and pushing us the way they did all the way to the end."
Evan Guillory allowed just two runs in five innings of work to move to 5-0 on the season, while Dylan Moore shut down Rice in the final three frames to earn his 13th save of the season and second in the regional tournament.
"Guillory got us off to a good start and kept us in the ballgame, and (Jordan) Stephens did the same for them. We finally got a walk, moved some runners around and got in and from there the game turned on us," Robichaux said. "I felt that the save would have to come in the seventh, so I had to bring out (Dylan) Moore earlier than I wanted to. But they pushed our hand on it and I thought the game was on the line there so we went with Moore, and what an outstanding job by a true freshman in that situation."
Louisiana scratched out seven hits against Rice pitching, with the biggest being a two-run single form the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Evan Powell in the top of the fifth to give the Cajuns a 4-2 lead. Dylan Butler was the lone Cajun with a multi-hit effort, going 2-for-3 on the day with an RBI.
Powell was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Greg Davis and Blake Trahan.
Jordan Stephens took the loss for Rice, allowing four runs in 4.2 innings of work before handing the ball off to a shorthanded Owls' bullpen that was just hours removed from a 20-inning victory over Houston early Monday morning to keep its season alive.
"That's what this team has done all year," Robichaux said. "Our seniors have given us great leadership all season and I thought that would help us out. Blake (Trahan) and Stefan (Trosclair) didn't swing the bat that well this weekend, but we were able to grind it out and pull out wins and you have to give a lot of credit to the bottom of the order for that."
In the top of the fourth, designated hitter Tyler Girouard gave the Cajuns a 1-0 lead on a single up the middle scoring second baseman Stefan Trosclair from third. Trosclair reached on an error by third baseman Grayson Lewis with one out. He then stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch.
Louisiana added three more runs in the top of the fifth to get out to a 4-0 advantage. Centerfielder Kyle Clement brought home the first run of the inning on a single through the right side of the infield. Two batters later, Powell delivered a two-run single to center to give the Ragin' Cajuns a 4-run edge.
Rice answered though in the bottom half of the fifth plating two runs on 2-out double to left center by Lewis to cut the Cajuns lead to 4-2.
The Owls threatened again in the bottom half of the seventh loading the bases with no outs after singles by John Clay Reeves and Kirby Taylor and a well-placed bunt by Leon Byrd. The Cajuns turned to Moore on the mound as he got Lewis swinging for the first out of the inning. After right fielder Charlie Warren grounded into a force play at the plate for the second out, Moore induced a fly out to left center by second baseman Ford Stainback to end the threat.
The Ragin' Cajuns tacked on a run in the top of the eighth to extend the lead to 5-2 on a sacrifice fly from Butler, which was more than enough for Moore in the ninth. The UL closer issued a leadoff walk to open the inning, but then sat down each of the next three Rice hitters, including a strikeout of Stainback to shut the door.