Freshman Lex Kaplan is mobbed by his teammates after notching the game-winning hit against Wichita State
April 26, 2014
NEW ORLEANS - For the second consecutive day, Tulane's baseball program received some late-inning heroics from a freshman, as outfielder Lex Kaplan singled in the walk off, game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth off Wichita State's Reagan Biechler to give the Green Wave a 5-4 win.
After Wichita State (21-21) tied things up at four with two outs in the top of the ninth with a solo home run off the bat of nine-hole hitter Tanner Dearman, Tulane (17-23) rallied back in a big way in the bottom half of the frame. With two outs on the board, senior designated hitter Andrew Garner secured his second hit of the afternoon before moving to second as Friday night's hero, Hunter Hope, walked. Kaplan, who at that point in the game had gone 0-for-3, stepped to the dish to face Biechler (0-1), and he lined a single into center field that was just deep enough to score Garner from second for the game-winning run.
"We'll take wins when we can get them, but I think these kinds of wins are really wins that can help your team make that next step, moving forward," said Tulane baseball interim head coach Jake Gautreau. "Our guys battled all game long and didn't give up. The team we've been seeing the last couple of days when it comes to offense and being aggressive is one we haven't been able to show the entire year. We played like this earlier in the year and the last few days, I think we've done a really good job offensively."
At the dish, too, Tulane totaled 11 hits, including three doubles, marking just the third time this season Tulane has produced back-to-back double digit hit contests. Freshman outfielder Grant Brown posted two of those doubles, while junior shortstop Garrett Deschamp had the other on his way to a 2-for-4 day. Garner, Brown and freshman second baseman Jake Willsey also went 2-for-4 at the dish, while Hope, Kaplan and freshman catcher Jake Rogers and all had one hit each.
Tulane truly battled back through the entire contest, as the Shockers got to Tulane starting pitcher Randy LeBlanc early. In the top of the third, LeBlanc allowed a three-run home run to Wichita State's Chase Simpson that sailed over the right field netting to give the Shockers an early lead.
But Tulane came back in the bottom half of that frame and notched their first run of the contest. Brown led off the inning with the first of his two doubles before being bunted over by sophomore catcher Cameron Burns - who got the start behind the dish on the day - and coming home on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Willsey.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Green Wave tied it up, and it came at the cost of Wichita State's starting pitcher, Cale Elam. Leading off the frame was Willsey, and he hit a rocket shot off the foot of Elam that ricocheted to third base for an infield single. The Shockers' coaching staff made a trip out to the mound to check on their starter, but he remained in the game, only to allow an RBI-double to Deschamp down the left field line and a single to Garner to put runners on the corners. Kaplan put a bunt down with one out in front of the mound, but a clearly wounded Elam overthrew first base, allowing Deschamp to score to tie the contest. At that point, the Shockers went to their bullpen for Kris Gardner, who pitched the next 1.1 innings while striking out three.
In the bottom of the seventh, Tulane tried to put the game away, as the Green Wave loaded the bases on a hit and two walks before Gardner was pulled for Aaron LaBrie, who Tulane faced on Friday evening. LaBrie was able to induce a pop fly down the right field line to end the inning, and keep the game in a deadlock.
Freshman reliever J.P. France, who entered the game in the seventh inning, got into a bit of trouble in the eighth, as the Shockers' Casey Gillaspie walked and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. However, France was able to blow three pitches by Micah Green to get the third out and leave the go-ahead run stranded at third base.
Sophomore reliever Ian Gibaut replaced France on the bump in the top of the ninth, and he allowed a quick double to Dayne Parker, who was replaced on the basepaths by Wes Phillips. Rogers, who pinch hit for Burns in the seventh, made a heads-up play as he caught Phillips napping at second on a pickoff to Deschamp for the first out of the inning. Gibaut (1-0) then struck out Zair Koeiman for the second out before serving up the home run ball to Dearman.
LeBlanc went 6.0 innings on the contest, allowing seven hits and three earned runs while walking three and striking out four. Elam pitched 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and three runs - two earned - while fanning three.
Gibaut earned the win, pitching 1.0 inning and allowing two hits and one run while also recording two strikeouts. Biechler picked up the loss, tossing an inning while giving up two hits and one earned run.
Burns threw out two runners on the base paths on the afternoon, just the second time in his career he's done so.
The Green Wave made quick work of the Shockers on Saturday compared to their previous night's victory, as Hope slugged a walk off grand slam in the bottom of the 12th to secure the Green Wave's first win in the series. The walk off grand slam was the first by a Green Wave player since Tommy Manzella hit one against Marist in the 10th inning of an 8-4 win on March 4, 2005.
The series finale will begin at 1pm CT on Sunday at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium. 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.
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.