April 25, 2014
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane's baseball team broke out of its offensive slump in a big way on Friday evening at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium, as freshman third baseman Hunter Hope blasted a walk off grand slam in the bottom of the 12th to cap a five-run inning during a 5-1 defeat of Wichita State.
After 11-straight scoreless innings of baseball, and falling behind 1-0 in the top of the 12th, Tulane (15-23) tied things up off Wichita State (21-19) relief pitcher Ray Ashford as sophomore outfielder Richard Carthon walked, moved to second on a single by freshman second baseman Jake Willsey and scored on freshman shortstop Stephen Alemais' single through the left side of the Shocker infield. Ashford (1-3) balked both Willsey and Alemais over a base before he walked senior outfielder Andrew Garner to load the bases for Hope. On a 2-1 pitch, Hope launched his third home run of the season that carried well over the net in left field, giving Tulane the win and allowing the Green Wave to snap a three-game losing streak.
"(Hope's grand slam) was big for so many reasons," said Tulane baseball interim head coach Jake Gautreau. "Hunter is a very strong, physical kid. He's a guy that we know can do things like that. He's going well right now, and hopefully soon and for the rest of his career you'll see a lot of that. He was 0-for-4 going into that last at bat, but we tell our guys it can happen at any time because it doesn't matter what happened in previous at bats, you can be a hero at any time. He got a pitch up in the zone and drove it. In that situation, the pressure is on the pitcher so the hitter can sit in and relax because the pitcher has to make the kind of pitches that you want. All you have to do as a batter is put the ball in play. Hope put a great swing on it and hit that ball about as well as you can hit a ball."
Neither team could manage to put enough hits together in a single inning to score a run, as both starting pitchers put together solid performances that kept the game scoreless. Tulane got a masterful outing once again by freshman starting pitcher Corey Merrill, who allowed just four hits across 7.0 innings, while striking out five. Wichita State's starter, A.J. Ladwig, allowed just five hits over 9.0 innings, while fanning nine.
Tulane had the game's first opportunity to score in the bottom of the fourth. Garner - who went 2-for-4 at the dish with two walks - reached on first on four balls before stealing second and advancing to third on the same play on an errant throw by Wichita State's catcher. However, he was left stranded, as Ladwig was able to get a ground ball back to the mound to end the frame.
The Green Wave also had a chance to put the game's first run on the board in the bottom of the eighth, as junior first baseman Tyler Wilson notched his first double as a member of the Tulane program to lead off the inning, before freshman pinch runner moved to third on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of freshman catcher Jake Rogers. Ladwig was able to come through big again, as he retired the next two batters to keep Brown 90 feet from taking a lead.
Things looked bleak in the top of the ninth for the Green Wave, as sophomore pitcher Tim Yandel loaded the bases with one out on a walk, an error and a single back to the mound with no outs on the board. But with a play able to be made at any plate, a sharp grounder to third off the bat of Dayne Parker allowed Hope to throw Chase Simpson out at home before the Shocker's Tanner Kirk grounded into a 5-2-3 double play to end the inning.
Tulane nearly matched Wichita State's play in the top of the ninth during their half of the frame, as junior shortstop Garrett Deschamp and Garner singled before both base runners moved up a bag on a sacrifice bunt from Hope. Freshman outfielder Lex Kaplan was intentionally walked to load the bags, but Ladwig got out of his third, and final, jam of the evening as he recorded a strike out and a fly out to leave three Green Wave runners on base.
In the bottom of the 11th, with Wichita State's Aaron LaBrie replacing fellow reliever Foster Vielock on the mound, Garner pulled a near carbon copy of his play in the fourth out of his back pocket, as he singled, stole second and reached third on another errant throw by the Shocker's backstop. LaBrie got Hope to fly out before intentionally walking senior pinch hitter Nick DiMaggio. With two runners on, the Shockers went to Ashford, who recorded two strikeouts to send the game to the 12th.
Wichita State ended the scoreless tie in the top of the 12th on a questionable call at home plate with two outs on the board. Sophomore reliever Emerson Gibbs entered the game and put two runners at the corners with a double to Micah Green and a bunt-single back to the mound to Parker. Gibbs (2-2) was backed by a spectacular defense play by Alemais, who was able to turn a double play off the bat of Kirk that kept Green at third. But during the next at bat, Gibbs delivered a wild pitch that allowed Green to scamper home, despite a close retrieval and toss by Rogers to a covering Gibbs.
It was all for naught, though, as the Green Wave came back during the next inning, thanks in part to the first three-hit inning of the game by either team.
Gibbs was credited with the win after pitching 1.0 and allowing two hits and one run. Sophomore reliever Ian Gibaut pitched 2.0 innings of hitless ball while fanning two. Yandel allowed one hit and one walk while also recording a strikeout across 2.0 innings.
Along with Garner, Carthon was the only other multi-hit batter for the Green Wave on the night, as he went 2-for-5 with a run and a walk. Willsey, Deschamp, Alemais, Rogers, Tyler Wilson, and of course, Hope, all notched one hit each.
The grand slam by Hope was the first for the Green Wave since Garrett Cannizaro went yard on March 17 last season in a game against UTSA.
The two teams will return to Greer Field at Turchin Stadium for the second game of the series on Saturday for a scheduled 2pm CT first pitch. The game will be broadcast on 88.3 FM WRBH, the home of Tulane baseball for the 2014 season, and live stats will be made available through GameTracker on the TulaneGreenWave.com baseball schedule page.
Saturday's game will be Police Appreciation Day at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium. Police personnel can show their badges or IDs at the gate to receive free admission to the park.
Single game tickets are available for each game. For more information on tickets, call 504-861-WAVE (9283), or visit 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.