March 6, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Despite a strong starting pitching performance from redshirt sophomore Randy LeBlanc, the Green Wave baseball squad dropped their tilt against Northwestern State on Wednesday at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium by a score of 5-1.
LeBlanc made his first start of the season, going 5.2 innings, striking out two and allowing six hits. However, LeBlanc (0-1) gave up three runs in the top of the sixth inning, giving Northwestern State (7-7) the lead, and they tacked on two more runs on relief pitcher Brady Wilson later that inning, bunching all five of their runs together in that frame.
""We gave up the big inning and we couldn't have one ourselves," said Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. "We hit some balls hard, but we didn't have a lot to show for it. The big inning for them, they had a couple of balls that we couldn't get to and that was really the difference. I though Randy [LeBlanc] pitched well. We turned a couple of double plays. We played well defensively."
Tulane surrendered ten hits, while only collecting six of their own.
For the second straight day, the Tulane starter walked the first batter he faced when LeBlanc walked Demon leadoff hitter Toby Cornejo. The speedy leadoff man stole second, and then reached third on a one-out single by Will Watson before LeBlanc got cleanup batter Nick Purdy to ground into a double play to leave Cornejo stranded just 90 feet away.
After the first inning, LeBlanc pitched impressively, retiring the side in both the second and third innings.
In the bottom of the third frame, Tulane scored the first run of the game on an RBI single from senior Sean Potkay. Prior to Potkay's at-bat, Demon's starter Cody Butler (1-0) walked both freshman Tim Yandel and senior Blake Crohan while sandwiching a groundout to senior Brennan Middleton in between the two, putting runners on at first and second. Senior Brandon Boudreaux hit into a fielder's choice that put Crohan out at second, but moved Yandel over to third. On a 1-2 count, Potkay hit a single into the outfield that brought Yandel home to take the lead.
LeBlanc faced another runner at third in the fourth inning when Watson reached first on a dribbler to the pitcher, advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt from Purdy and moved to third on a wild pitch. However, after LeBlanc walked designated hitter Matt Baca, the Abita Springs, La., native got Edwin Gomez to hit into a double play to end the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Crohan collected his second double of the season, but was left stranded when Boudreaux and Potkay hit back-to-back groundouts.
LeBlanc returned to the mound in the sixth, but allowed a single to Cornejo to lead off the inning. He moved over to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Burns. LeBlanc then plunked Watson on the arm, before getting Purdy to groundout to third, moving both runners into scoring position. The hit-by-pitch came back to haunt LeBlanc when Baca brought home Cornejo and Watson home on a double to take the lead. LeBlanc was removed from the game in favor of Wilson - making his eighth appearance on the year. Nathan Lyons, who pinch hit for Gomez, hit a single that ricocheted off Wilson for a single, putting runners at the corners. Cort Brinson sent a double down the left field line that scored Baca, and moved to Lyons to third. Zack Costa ended the barrage of runs when he hit a two-RBI single to give Northwestern State their fourth and fifth runs of the game.
"I felt good," said LeBlanc. "I definitely feel like I could have thrown better. Clearly we lost. I didn't want to give up a run on that last pitch, but I got behind the guy 2-0 and then I tried to get on in there but I left it up and he got it by Garrett [Cannizaro] down the line and that was the difference in the game. If we got out of that inning there, I think we would have won the game."
The Greenies almost put another run on the board in the seventh when designated hitter Tucker Oakley singled and was replaced by freshman Richard Carthon on the base paths. Middleton hit a single through the left side that moved Carthon up to second. Crohan hit into a fielder's choice that put runners at the corners, but once again, both runners were left on the bags when Butler struck out the Tulane batter to end the threat.
Relief pitchers Nick Helmstetter retired the eighth inning, and Steven Spann gave up only a double to pinch hitter Briggs Barrios in the ninth before retiring the next three Green Wave batters to end the game. Northwestern State won their first game against the Greenies since March 3, 2009, when the Demons defeated the Green Wave, 10-6, in 10 innings at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
Middleton, Crohan, Potkay, Oakley, Barrios and Andrew Garner were the only Greenies with hits on the day. Middleton kept his hitting streak alive by going 1-for4 at the plate. He has now hit safely in 13 consecutive games.
Tulane will play host to High Point this weekend in a three-game series. Nestled in North Carolina, High Point is a school that Jones' played during his days as a collegiate athlete at UNC-Wilmington, and as a coach at Elon.
Saturday and Sunday's games will be broadcast on 106.1 The Ticket, Tulane baseball's new flagship station. Friday's contest will be made available to All-Access members on TulaneGreenWave.com.
You can follow the Tulane baseball program on Twitter (@GreenWaveBSB) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball.