April 11, 2014
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane's baseball team scratched and clawed their way back into a game against Rice on Friday night at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium, but came up one run short in a 4-3 loss while a bang-bang play at the plate to end the bottom of the seventh ended up being the difference in the hard-fought contest.
With Tulane (14-18, 6-9) down two runs in the bottom of the seventh, Tulane freshman Hunter Hope walked with one out on the board against Rice (24-12, 11-5) starter Kevin McCanna. After another out, senior designated hitter Nick DiMaggio - making just his eighth start of the season - ripped a double down into the corner in right field. With Hope sprinting around third base to go home, a relay from Rice's right fielder Keenan Cook to first baseman Skyler Ewing to catcher John Clay Reeves was in time according to the home plate umpire, ending the frame for Tulane, and keeping a run off the board for the Green Wave.
Despite the close play at home and the loss, Tulane managed six hits at the dish - three being doubles by DiMaggio, senior outfielder Andrew Garner and freshman catcher Jake Rogers - while the Tulane pitching duo of redshirt junior Randy LeBlanc and freshman Corey Merrill held a high-powered Rice offense to just four runs.
"You are never pleased with a loss," said Tulane baseball interim head coach Jake Gautreau. "(This was) definitely a step in the right direction. Randy (LeBlanc) and Corey (Merrill) threw the ball really well for us for the most part. I think we played good defense behind them. I thought our at bats were better. I thought our defense was better. I thought overall it was a better-played baseball game. Right now, that is what we are looking for. We are looking for guys to go up there and do what it takes to get on base. I think tonight you saw guys fight a little more to get on base. We definitely had a lot more energy and that's what I was looking for."
The Green Wave were in a hole after just the first inning. Rice came out in the top of the first and put two runs up on the board on three singles up the middle and a sacrifice fly. However, Tulane came out in the bottom of the frame to cut that lead in half, as junior first baseman Garrett Deschamp walked and scored on Garner's double to left center. Rice's Cook made a huge play in right field to end the inning, as Hope hit a shot out to right field that Cook caught on the top of his shoes for the third out, keeping Garner from scoring.
Rice got that run back in the top of the second when Sunday starter Chase McDowell - who started at designated hitter on the evening - homered to right center off LeBlanc (3-3). While LeBlanc allowed a double to Rice's Michael Aquino, who eventually moved to third base, the righty from Abita Springs, La., was able to get out of the rest of the frame unscathed, thanks in part to a diving catch in left field by sophomore Richard Carthon to end the inning.
Tulane scored their second run in the bottom of the fourth off a home run of their own, as Deschamp blasted his second four-bagger of the season to left field. Hope reached base on a single shortly after that, but was picked off by McCanna (3-2).
Rice added to their lead in the top of the seventh after Shane Hoelscher singled and moved to second on a sacrifice before coming home on another shot up the middle, this time from Connor Teykl. With two runners on, Merrill replaced LeBlanc on the bump, and he was able to induce back-to-back ground outs to end Rice's threat of adding more runs.
After the close play at the dish, the Green Wave still had some wind in their sails, as they came out in the bottom of the eighth and put up another run. Rogers doubled to lead things off, and Rice went to their bullpen, tabbing Matt Ditman as the successor to McCanna's night. Rogers moved to third on an infield hit by Carthon with one out, but a throwing error by Hoelscher in an attempt to get Carthon out at first allowed Rogers to scoot home, while moving Carthon up 90 feet. However, Ditman was able to record back-to-back strikeouts to leave Carthon stranded as the tying run in scoring position.
In the bottom of the ninth, Ditman got three straight groundouts to end the contest. He picked up his fifth save of the season after throwing 2.0 innings with three strikeouts.
LeBlanc pitched 6.1 innings, allowing 10 hits and four runs - all earned - while striking out three and walking three. Merrill fanned one and allowed one hit in 2.2 innings of work.
McCanna struck out two and allowed five hits and three runs - one unearned - while posting seven strikeouts and two walks.
"We came up short but I think there were a lot of positive things from tonight," added Gautreau. "We cannot dwell on it and we have to put it behind us. We have two more big games this weekend."
The two squads will return to Greer Field at Turchin Stadium on Saturday for the second game of the series, with the first pitch scheduled to be at 2pm CT. Live stats will be available through GameTracker links on the TulaneGreenWave.com baseball schedule page, and the game will be broadcast on the home of Tulane baseball for the 2014 season, 88.3 FM WRBH.
Saturday is Fireman Appreciation Day at the ballpark, and anyone with proper fireman identification will receive a free ticket to the game. Members of the New Orleans Fire Department will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Saturday. Saturday's contest is also Hawaiian Day, and fans are urged to wear their Hawaiian shirts. Free leis will be given away at the entrance of the ballpark.
Sunday is Kids' Day at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium. There will be inflatables for youngster to play in during the game, and they will be able to stand next to their favorite players on the field during the National Anthem while also having the opportunity to run around the bases post game. It will also be Mascot Day on Saturday, with the mascots from the New Orleans Voodoo, New Orleans Pelicans, New Orleans Zephyrs and Loyola Wolfpack in attendance.
Fans can also donate a bag of Mardi Gras beads to receive a voucher for a future Green Wave baseball game during the contests on Saturday and Sunday.
Single game tickets for the 2014 Tulane baseball season can be purchased through the Tulane ticket office by either calling 504-861-WAVE (9283), or visiting the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center's first floor ticket office.
Fans can follow the Tulane baseball program on Twitter (@GreenWaveBSB) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball.