Feb. 23, 2008
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Junior outfielder Aja Barto went 2-for-3 with an RBI and three stolen bases, and junior right-hander Mason Griffin tossed a scoreless ninth, as the Tulane University baseball team rallied to defeat Illinois Chicago, 4-3, Saturday afternoon at the new Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
The Green Wave rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits with two runs in the fifth and another in the sixth, but Barto came through with the run that mattered most in the bottom of the eighth. For the second consecutive day, the Tulane bullpen was nearly flawless as Josh Zeid threw a scoreless seventh, sophomore Preston Claiborne gave up just a walk in the eighth and Griffin pitched his way around a leadoff walk in the ninth to earn his first career Division I save.
"I thought we played well," Tulane head coach Rick Jones said. "We had a really good pitching performance by Aaron Loup, three outstanding bullpen performances by Josh Zeid Preston Claiborne and Mason Griffin, made one error and came from behind twice. We did it with some good quality at-bats and some really good base running."
With the score knotted at 3-all and one away in the eighth, junior catcher Jared Dyer lifted a high fly ball to right that Flames outfielder Ty Rubio appeared to be camped under for a routine out. Rubio, however, saw the ball rattle in and out of his glove to allow Dyer to advance to second.
Junior right fielder Drew Allain moved Dyer to third with a ground ball to the right side of the infield to set up Barto's game-winning hit. Barto fell behind 0-2 to reliever Chris Kovacevich and fouled another off before dribbling an infield single down the third base line to account for the game's winning run.
"The mistake doesn't win for you if you don't take advantage of it," Jones said. "Jared Dyer hustling on that play was the key to that. It was a high sky and (Rubio) lost it in the sun. It was one of those things. It could happen to anybody. Drew moved him over with a solid at-bat, and Aja's speed came in there to knock him in."
Clinging to a one-run lead, Jones called on Griffin to close things out and the junior college transfer from Grayson County College got off to a rocky start by walking UIC first baseman Tony Altavilla to start the ninth. Griffin, however, settled down to get a pair of groundouts and took care of the final out himself with a come-backer to the mound to clinch the victory.
"As soon as I saw the ball drop in right field (in the eighth) I pointed at my catcher Andrew (Robinson) and I said, `Let's roll. Let's get it going,'" Griffin said. "I knew I was going in at that point and I knew we were going to score. The fans around me started getting excited and started yelling at me to go shut it down because they knew we were going to score too."
Preston Claiborne (1-0) earned his first career victory while Kovacevich (0-1) was tagged with the loss after giving up just the unearned run on one hit in 2.0 innings of work.
UIC starter Derrick Miramontes was in control early on, holding Tulane without a hit over the first four innings. Tulane's Aaron Loup was equally up to the challenge through four frames, but the Flames took the early lead with a two-run single by designated hitter Brett Schaefer in the second.
The Green Wave answered the score with a pair of runs in the home half of the inning as Barto got things going with a leadoff single, stole second and scored on junior designated hitter Warren McFadden's rope single to left. With two aay and runners at first and second, junior left fielder Anthony Scelfo tied the score with an RBI double to right.
Rubio pushed the Flames ahead 3-2 in the top of the sixth win an RBI fielder's choice grounder but Tulane answered the challenge once again as Dyer smashed a leadoff double in the bottom of the stanza and scored on an RBI-single off the bat of junior first baseman Sam Honeck to tie the game once again.
"You always look at the last couple of plays, but we had opportunities in the first few innings with guys in scoring positions," UIC head coach Mike Dees said. "I thought we had good at-bats, but we just didn't get a hit. All in all, I thought we played very relaxed. I couldn't be more pleased with the way we played today. Tulane is a great club. They've very, very good, they've very poised, and they've a very good test for us right now."
Tulane and Illinois Chicago close out the weekend series on Sunday with first pitch slated for noon. Every home game during the 2008 season will be streamed live on the internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com. Fans who have signed up for the All-Access Pass can watch every pitch of the action as the new Greer Field at Turchin Stadium has been wired with three cameras which will not only show replays on the new video board, but also broadcast live in the Internet.
For ticket information for Sunday's contest and future Green Wave Athletics events, contact the Tulane University Athletics Ticket Office at 504-861-WAVE or go on-line at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.