March 5, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - After senior starter David Napoli left the game in the top of the second inning, three freshman pitchers combined to throw eight shutout innings of relief in Tulane's 3-0 win over Northwestern State Tuesday night at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
Daniel Rankin, Emerson Gibbs and Ian Gibaut allowed only seven hits over eight innings, combining to strikeout eight Northwestern State (6-7) batters, while only walking one. Rankin (1-0) pitched the longest, going 4.0 innings for his first collegiate win. The game marked the third time this season Tulane (7-6) has shutout an opponent.
"I was really excited to see what they (the freshman pitchers) did tonight," said Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. "The ball wasn't carrying well, so we really had to pound the strike zone to give ourselves a chance. I thought our guys did a really good job at that."
Napoli got the start on the day - his first of the season - and walked the Demon leadoff hitter, Toby Cornejo to start the contest. With two outs, he then allowed a single to catcher Nick Purdy. However, Cornejo - who had moved to second on a steal - attempted to score on the single to left field, but junior Andrew Garner rocketed a throw to home to gun Cornejo down at the plate for the third out of the inning.
Tulane didn't take long to put runs on the board, scoring two in the bottom of the first. With two outs, senior Brandon Boudreaux singled up the middle before senior Sean Potkay walked to put runners at first and second. The both advanced a bag on a passed ball dealt by Northwestern State starter Andrew Adams, who subsequently gave up a two-RBI single to Garner - his 11th and 12th RBIs of the season. It turned out to be the only runs that Tulane would need.
"My two-out approach hasn't been great as of late, and Coach Jones has already talked about it, with all the hitters, and we changed a few things, and it really worked tonight," said Garner. "I was really just trying not to do too much. We decided that it was best to try and hit the ball to the opposite field, widen out our stance, and choke up on the bat in order to improve our two-out hitting."
When Tulane took the field in the top of the second inning, Jones pulled Napoli before throwing a pitch due to an injury he sustained in the top of the first. Jones then dipped into his bullpen, using Rankin to stave off any run Northwestern State might put together.
Rankin started off shaky, allowing hits to Edwin Gomez, Cort Brinson and Zach Costa in the second inning before getting out of trouble. He retired the next five batters that he faced before walking Cornejo with two outs in the fifth. However, he got Garrett Kilgore to ground out to end the fifth.
In the sixth, fellow freshman Gibbs came on in relief of Rankin in the top of the sixth. After getting two groundball outs from Will Watson and Purdy, he allowed a single to Matt Baca before ending the inning by striking out Gomez.
The Demons replaced Adams with Logan Shaftner to begin the sixth. Adams (0-1) went five innings, allowing five hits, two runs (one earned) and striking out five. Despite the pitching change, Tulane added an extra run in the sixth when junior Bowen Woodson brought Garner home on an RBI single.
Gibbs continued his dominance, retiring the side in the seventh inning, before allowing a one-out single to Watson in the eighth. At that point, Jones brought in Gibaut to close out the game. Gibaut - making his fifth appearance of the season - struck out Purdy for the second out before he walked Baca. A passed ball advanced both Watson and Baca into scoring position. To end the threat, Gibaut used a breaking to down Gomez on strikes for his second strikeout of the inning.
In the ninth, Gibaut recorded three straight outs for his first save of his career.
For the game, Middleton was 1-for-3 and extended his hitting streak to 12 straight games - a career-best. Boudreaux was 3-for-4 at the plate, and Potkay went 2-for-3 with a walk - the only bases on balls issued to Tulane on the evening. Freshman Cameron Burns and senior Garrett Cannizaro also added hits.
Senior Blake Crohan started his first game since he injured his shoulder during the season opening win over Sam Houston State. He got the start in center field, but went 0-for3 at the plate.
Redshirt sophomore Randy LeBlanc will make his first start of the season against Northwestern State on Wednesday, when the Demons return to Greer Field at Turchin Stadium for a 2pm CST tilt. LeBlanc made his season debut on Sunday, pitching one inning in Tulane's 12-6 loss against Alabama. The Demons will send lefty junior Cody Butler to the mound for the game.
The game will be broadcast on the flagship station for Tulane baseball, 106.1 The Ticket. Live stats will be made available through TulaneGreenWave.com.
You can follow the Tulane baseball program on Twitter (@GreenWaveBSB) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball.