March 31, 2006
METAIRIE, La. - Sophomore right-hander Sean Morgan struck out 10 Owl hitters and rookie third baseman Seth Henry had an RBI single in the fourth, but it was not enough as the Tulane University baseball team dropped a 3-1 decision to preseason Conference USA favorite Rice Friday evening at Zephyr Field.
Rice starter Eddie Degerman (5-0) entered the ballgame with a 1.10 ERA, and actually lowered it to a 0.98 mark after striking out seven and allowing just one unearned run on three hits in 6.0 solid innings of work. Sophomore southpaw Cole St. Clair went the rest of the way for the Owls, striking out seven and allowing just a pair of walks to pick up his fourth save of the year.
"Their pitching overwhelmed us," Tulane head coach Rick Jones said. "They shut down the middle of our lineup and they made pitches when we had some opportunities. I thought Sean Morgan pitched a gem for us. He was outstanding. And with the exception of one defensive miscue, we played really well defensively. But the story was their pitching just overwhelmed us."
The two teams combined for 25 strikeouts, but in the end, Rice had the upper hand in the category, 14-11. With the loss, Tulane falls to 18-10 on the year and 2-2 in C-USA play. Rice, meanwhile, improves to 22-8 overall and 3-1 in conference action.
Morgan (4-3) pitched well out from the start, but Tulane gave up runs in the first and second inning that perhaps should not have scored. Centerfielder Tyler Henley opened the game by reaching on a strikeout-wild pitch, but a ground ball moved him to scoring position and third baseman Josh Rodriguez drove him home with a two-out RBI-single to left center to give the Owls a 1-0 lead.
In the second, right fielder Chase Lembeck dropped down a bunt single to open the stanza, and with the scouting report not showing Lembeck as a drag bunter, Henry had to charge the ball hard and his throw to first was wild which allowed the runner to reach second standing up. A ground ball moved Lembeck to third, and shortstop Brian Friday laid down a sacrifice bunt to make it a 2-0 ballgame.
"When you have Degerman on the mound and the lefty (St. Clair) out of the bullpen, that was pretty big," Jones said. "That's why we had the infield in there in the second. Every run is so sacred."
Tulane cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fourth, and this time, it was the Owls gift-wrapping a run as sophomore shortstop Cat Everett reached on a catcher's interference by Rice backstop Travis Reagan with one out in the stanza. Redshirt-freshman right fielder Warren McFadden followed with a walk and Degerman nearly got out of the jam with a strikeout for the second out of the inning, but Henry ripped a 3-1 pitch to right center to make it a 2-1 affair.
Morgan retired 14 in a row after allowing the leadoff single to Lembeck in the second, including six by strikeout, before first baseman Joe Savery singled with two out in the sixth. Savery was stranded at first, but the Owls tacked on an insurance run in the eighth when Friday reached on a leadoff walk, advanced the bases on a sacrifice bunt by Reagan and a single by Henley, and second baseman Gene Buchanan laced an RBI-single to left to account for the final score.
Tulane had a chance to make things interesting in the eighth as senior left fielder Matt Riser drew a leadoff walk and Nathan Southard hammered a ball onto the home-run porch in left, but his shot was ruled a foul ball. Southard eventually walked with one out, but St. Clair responded with a punchout and a routine grounder to get out of the jam before retiring the side in order in the ninth.
"(Degerman's) fastball was good, he spotted up well and used his curveball very effectively," Southard said of Rice's starter. "He got behind in a lot of the counts, but we didn't take advantage of it early. He threw a lot of balls (off the plate) and that kept us off balance."
Tulane and Rice continue the series on Saturday at 2 p.m. before closing out the weekend on Sunday with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. Following the weekend series against the Owls, Tulane will play game three of the WOW Café & Wingery Cup vs. cross-town foe UNO on Tuesday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. at Zephyr Field. While the game is being played on the Green Wave's home field for 2006, the game is technically a home game for the Privateers.