May 4, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - A big fourth inning by the Tulane hitters - capped by four-straight RBI hits - helped propel the Green Wave past the Houston Cougars, 6-3, at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A day after playing in unseasonably cold weather, and in a game where emotions ran high due to a play at the plate that resulted in the ejection of Houston's (29-18, 8-9) Caleb Barker, Tulane (24-23, 8-9) responded by collecting 12 hits, ten of which came off the arm of Houston ace Austin Pruitt in his 7.1 innings of action, in perfect weather.
After three straight scoreless innings by both teams, Tulane broke things open in the bottom of the fourth. Junior Nick DiMaggio - who extended his hitting streak to six games earlier in the contest with a single - led off the bottom of the fourth with another base knock, and he moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt from senior Garrett Cannizaro. After retiring the next batter and with DiMaggio advancing to third, Pruitt (7-5) allowed four straight RBI hits, started by senior Sean Potkay's double down the left field line to score DiMaggio. Junior Andrew Garner singled to right field to bring Potkay home from second, and Garner advanced to second on a wild pitch from Pruitt. Senior Brennan Middleton singled and advanced to second on the throw home in a late attempt to get Garner out at home. Garner got in before the ball got home, and Middleton rounded the bases on a single by junior Bowen Woodson. It was just the ninth time this season that Tulane has scored four or more runs in one inning.
"I thought we had some resolve," said Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. "We knew (Pruitt) was featuring a really good 12-6 breaking ball. We had some really good two out hits. We haven't seen much of that obviously, but it was good to see it today. We needed it."
Senior Alex Byo only allowed one hit through the first three innings, but walked Michael Pyeatt with one out in the top of the second. Barker - who was ruled eligible to play today - came to the dish, but Byo (3-4) was able to induce an inning-ending double play off his bat, much to the pleasure of Green Wave fans in attendance.
Byo retired the side in the top of the fifth inning in order, but got into some trouble in the top of the sixth when Houston's Frankie Ratcliff led things off with a triple. Jonathan Davis hit a sacrifice fly to the left field wall to score Ratcliff for Houston's first run of the game. Justin Montemayor singled up the middle and Pyeatt followed that with a single of his own to put runners at first and second. However, Byo was able to get another double play ball off the bat of Barker to end another inning.
A scary moment occurred in the bottom of the sixth after Middleton walked with one out. Middleton stole second, but on the head-first slide, his neck was jammed as the top of his head met squarely with the Houston infielder attempting to make the tag out on the throw. Middleton lay on the field for a few minutes before getting up and staying in the game.
After a scoreless seventh inning by both squads, Byo returned to the mound for the eighth, and was able to get Davis to foul out to first base for the first out. However, he allowed a single through the right side to Montemayor, and since his pitch count was high, he was relieved by freshman Ian Gibaut. Normally a sure thing on the mound, Gibaut struggled a little, immediately allowing a single to Pyeatt to score Montemayor. Jacob Campbell pinch hit for Barker, and he fared much better at the dish, as he singled to right field to put runners at first and second. After allowing an RBI single to Landon Appling to cut Tulane's lead to just one run, Garner was brought to the mound. Garner was able to quickly retire the last two batters before any more harm was done.
The Greenies got their two runs back in the bottom of the eighth on four hits, the second inning of the contest in which the Green Wave batters collected four or more hits. Garner got things started with a one-out double to right field, and Middleton followed him on the base paths with one of his patented bunts down the third base line. With runners at the corners, Woodson singled up the middle to score Garner before freshman catcher Cameron Burns brought Middleton home on his own RBI single.
In the ninth, Garner remained on the mound, and he retired the side in order to secure the Green Wave victory, as well as his fifth save on the year.
Byo earned his first win since March 16, when he was credited with the victory over UTSA. In the contest, the Baton Rouge native went 7.1 innings, allowing eight hits while striking out two.
"I thought Alex [Byo] pitched extremely well," added Jones. "Andrew Garner had a good day for us offensively and really pitched well."
Woodson, Middleton, Garner and DiMaggio all collected two hits each on the afternoon. DiMaggio notched back-to-back multi hit contests for the first time in his career, after plating two hits for the second consecutive game.
The rubber match of the series will take place at 1pm CT at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium. The broadcast of the contest can be heard on 88.3 FM, and live stats will be available through TulaneGreenWave.com.
Fans can follow the Tulane baseball program on Twitter (@GreenWaveBSB) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball.