May 5, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane baseball, who held a lead against the Houston Cougars from the fourth inning on, allowed two runs in the top of the ninth - including the go-ahead score - to drop the rubber match of the series, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
Despite outhitting Houston (30-18, 9-9) eight to four, Tulane (24-24, 8-10) pitching allowed two crucial hits in the top of the ninth. After pitching the first 8.0 innings of the contest, Tulane senior David Napoli came back on in the top of the frame with a 2-1 lead and allowed a leadoff single to Houston's Jonathan Davis. Napoli was quickly replaced on the mound by junior southpaw Brady Wilson, who recorded an out on a sacrifice bunt to move Davis to second. After dealing a four pitch walk to Michael Pyeatt, Wilson was pulled for freshman closer Ian Gibaut.
With two runners on and only one out, Caleb Barker hit a double into left field that was nearly snagged by a diving Garrett Cannizaro, who played outstanding defense all day long. The hit scored Davis to tie the contest, and a suicide squeeze play by pinch hitter Price Jacobs scored pinch runner Ashford Fulmer from third to take the lead once and for all.
"That was obviously a very disappointing loss today," said Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. "To have the lead in the ninth, we felt like we had the momentum going. I have no problem with our at-bats. We outhit them today. David Napoli gave us a great effort. The ball that Barker hit down the line was hit real hard. We were hoping for the double play. When you lose 4-3 and 3-2 (on Friday) after winning yesterday, it's tough."
Napoli turned in another outstanding performance, as he went 8.0 innings, allowing only three hits. He was helped throughout the contest by his infielders - particularly Cannizaro - who made some very difficult plays seem routine.
In the top of the second, Houston scored the game's first run. Justin Montemayor led the inning off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Barker - who was the catcher ejected after Friday night's fiasco - doubled to center field to bring Montemayor home.
However, Napoli was solid other than that blemish. Other than hitting three batters - one in each of the first three innings - there wasn't much he did wrong on the afternoon. In the top of the third, he hit Kyle Survance to lead off the inning, but he was tagged up at first after Frankie Ratcliff quickly popped out to junior Bowen Woodson, who then made the heads up play to turn the double play.
The Greenies tied things up in the bottom of the fourth after senior Sean Potkay - who reached base on a single - went to third on a double by junior Andrew Garner. Potkay eventually crossed home plate when senior Brennan Middleton hit a sacrifice fly to left field for his tenth RBI of the season.
Napoli managed to retire 12 straight batters from the middle of the third to the middle of the eighth, helped by a barehanded grab and throw out by Cannizaro off a bunt attempt by Barker in the top of the seventh. In the bottom of that frame, Garner notched his second double of the contest, and was bunted over by Middleton, who reached when the attempt at third base was called safe. With one out, freshman Cameron Burns laid down a perfect bunt up the first base line on a suicide squeeze that scored Garner to break the tie. Houston starter Aaron Garza - who went 6.1 innings with six strikeouts - was replaced on the mound by Matt Hernandez, who immediately threw a wild pitch that allowed Burns to reach second base and Middleton to reach third. Freshman Tim Yandel - who pinch hit for fellow freshman Richard Carthon - was able to reach on an infield single to third base to load the bags. During the next at-bat, junior Nick DiMaggio hit a slow roller back to the mound where Hernandez found it and threw Middleton out at home on the force play. With the bases still full of Greenies, Hernandez (4-1) was able to retire the next batter to leave the bags full as the inning ended.
Potkay reached second base again in the eighth inning after singling for his second hit of the game and moving to second on a groundout. But he was left there as Hernandez was able to once again get out of the inning unscathed.
After Houston went up 3-2 in the top of the ninth, the Greenies had one more chance to make things right. Woodson got it going with a single up the middle to lead off the frame, but Hernandez was then relieved by Chase Wellbrock, who pitched in all three games of the series. Wellbrock only needed six pitches to retire the next two batters - both fly-ball outs to left field - to give Houston the series. Wellbrock recorded his ninth save, as well.
Wilson (1-3) was credited with the loss for Tulane, going only 0.1 innings and allowing one earned run and one walk.
Despite losing the series, Tulane's outhit Houston all weekend, as the Greenies went 30-for-113 (.291) at the plate compared to Houston's 24-for-95 (.253) clip. Today's contest marked just the fifth time this season that Tulane has lost when outhitting their opponent. They are 18-5 when they collect more hits than the opposition.
Potkay and Garner both collected multi-hit games, giving Garner a hit in eight straight games. DiMaggio - who recorded a single in the first inning - extended his hitting streak to seven games.
On Tuesday, the Greenies will welcome Nicholls State to Greer Field at Turchin Stadium for a 6:30pm CT first pitch that will be broadcast on 88.3 FM. It will be Tulane's last regular season midweek contest, as the squad will travel to Orlando this weekend for a series against UCF before coming home for the final week of the regular season to play UAB in a three-game set on the Uptown campus.
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