May 3, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane's baseball team came up short in their first game of a three-game series against Houston by a score of 4-3 on Friday night at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium amidst a night full of odd play after odd play.
During the game that was played in chilly temperatures that are unnatural for this time of the year in southern Louisiana, the umpiring crew of David Buck, Charles Busse and Ron Whiting met on numerous occasions to discuss a series of strange plays that plagued the contest.
With the score in favor of Houston 3-0 in the bottom of the third, the Tulane (23-23, 7-9) bats began to hit Houston (29-17, 8-8) starter Daniel Poncedeleon, beginning with a one out single up the middle off the bat of Tulane junior Bowen Woodson. After walking freshman Richard Carthon with one out, junior Nick DiMaggio doubled for the third straight game, scoring Woodson from second for Tulane's first run of the game. However, Carthon attempted to come home from first on the play, and a relay throw got him at the plate. Despite making the initial tag on Carthon, Houston catcher Caleb Barker appeared to drop the ball to which Carthon protested. Barker picked the ball up and emphatically tagged Carthon out, much to the dismay of the Tulane bench. Both dugouts poured onto the field before order was restored. After the dust settled, Barker was ejected from the contest.
"I didn't get a clear view of that play and I wish I could have," said Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. "All I know is they threw him out of the ballgame which means he's suspended for tomorrow's game as well."
Houston scored a run in each of the first four innings off seven hits from Tulane starter Tony Rizzotti. In the first inning, despite loading the bases, Houston only managed one run off a Frankie Ratcliff double. In the top of the second, Rizzotti (5-4) balked and threw a wild pitch after Ashford Fulmer reached on a fielder's choice, putting him at third base. Josh Vidales brought him home on a sacrifice fly to go up 2-0 over the Green Wave. In the next inning, the Cougars loaded the bases again with two outs on a single, a hit by pitch and a walk. Landon Appling singled through the right side to score Justin Montemayor, but Michael Pyeatt was thrown out at third.
After Tulane got their initial run in the bottom of the third, Houston notched another in the top of the fourth after Vidales tripled and was brought home on a sacrifice fly from Ratcliff.
The Greenies struck again in the bottom of the fourth after senior Garrett Cannizaro led off the frame with a full count walk. He advanced to second on a passed ball off the glove of Houston backup catcher Daniel Smith. Cannizaro advanced another 90 feet on another passed ball before scoring on an RBI-single from junior Andrew Garner. Senior Sean Potkay - who walked before Garner came to the plate - reached third on the single, but was left stranded as the inning ended.
In the top of the fifth, with no outs, Rizzotti dealt three straight balls to Montemayor before asking for assistance from Tulane head trainer Andy Massey. Rizzotti was pulled from the game with tightness in his lower back, and was replaced by junior Kyle McKenzie, who got out of the inning unscathed.
Carthon singled up the middle with one out in the bottom of the fifth, and stole second for his 11th swipe of the season. He advanced to third on a groundout, but the Tulane bats could not manage to bring him home.
McKenzie struck out the side in the top of the sixth, but faced trouble in the top of the next inning. After allowing a one-out single to Montemayor through the left side, Pyeatt doubled down the left field line. Carthon made an attempt at a diving play, but kicked the ball, and it ended up under a tarp down. Despite both runners making their way around the bases and into the dugout after thinking they had scored, the umpiring crew convened again, eventually ruling the play a ground-rule double, putting the runners at second and third. With Smith at the dish for his first at-bat of the game, the Cougars attempted a suicide squeeze. McKenzie picked up on it, and a throw was made to freshman catcher Cameron Burns that allowed him to tag Montemayor out on the base paths. McKenzie then struck out Smith the end the frame.
"(The ball) got caught in the padding and that's never happened before since I've been here," said Jones of the ground-rule double. "(The umpiring crew) just wanted to make sure that they all saw it. And they got the call right. And I felt like when we got out of that it put us in the position where we could really do something and we just couldn't come up with a big hit."
Tulane did score again - in the bottom of the seventh - when Burns laced his second double of the season into the outfield, advancing to third on an infield single from Carthon. DiMaggio then came to the plate and brought Burns home on a single to left field, cutting Houston's lead to just one run.
McKenzie continued to pitch well, retiring the side in order in the eighth, and Tulane nearly struck again in the bottom of the inning after Potkay doubled with one out. After the extra-base hit, Poncedeleon (6-4) was replaced on the mound by Chase Wellbrock, who was able to retire the next two Tulane batters to keep the tying run at second base.
Once again, McKenzie retired the side in order in the ninth, but so did Wellbrock, giving Houston the win.
"We had ten hits, scored three runs and gave up four," stated Jones. "We had one error but it didn't cost us a run defensively for the most part. Tony did not have his best stuff early and I thought Kyle pitched very well. A couple of two outs situations where we didn't get a swing off and it's just a frustrating loss losing a one-run ballgame like this. We've had that happen quite a bit to us."
Poncedeleon earned the victory, going 7.1 innings, allowing nine hits and striking out three. Rizzotti was credited with the loss, after pitching his shortest outing of the season. He went 4.0 innings, allowing seven hits and four walks, while striking out two. Wellbrock earned his eighth save of the season. McKenzie pitched 5.0 innings - his second consecutive 5.0 plus inning performance out of the bullpen - striking out five and allowing only two hits.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow at 2pm CT when Tulane sends senior starter Alex Byo to the mound to square off against Houston's Austin Pruitt. The game will be broadcast on 106.1 The Ticket.
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