May 24, 2006
HOUSTON, Texas - Pirates catcher Jake Smith capped a three-run fifth with a two-out, two-run homer and starter Brody Taylor went 7.1 strong innings as the third-seeded Tulane University baseball team dropped a 4-2 decision to sixth-seeded East Carolina in the opening game of the 2006 Conference USA Tournament at Rice's Reckling Park.
The Green Wave and Pirates had seven hits apiece, but Tulane stranded eight runners on the basepaths - including five in scoring position - and hit into a pair of double plays. Taylor was replaced by Shane Mathews with one out in the eighth, and the sophomore right-hander retired five of the six batters he faced to earn his first career save.
"I thought Brody Taylor pitched well and (East Carolina) played well defensively," Tulane head coach Rick Jones said. "Even though they had two errors, they made a lot of plays and we hit a lot of balls hard that just didn't have eyes. But that's going to happen.
"I thought we played really well also. Sean pitched tremendously and gave us a great effort. Defensively, we were errorless, so you know we played well there as we have all year, and we had some real good at-bats but it was one of those days where the game was unforgiving and we didn't have anything to show for it. You have to couple that with the fact that East Carolina played very well and Taylor pitched well."
With the loss, Tulane falls to 39-18 on the year and will take on the loser of the Houston/Marshall contest at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 25. East Carolina, meanwhile, improves to 33-24 and will play the winner of the Cougars/Thundering Herd ballgame tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Taylor (8-2), posted just one strikeout on the game, but made good pitches when he needed to and got some help from his defense. The Pirates committed a pair of errors, but third baseman Jacob Dean was a vacuum cleaner at the hot corner with a game-best five assists.
Down 4-1, junior catcher Ty Wallace but the lead to two with a solo bomb to left to lead off fifth, and Tulane had runners on the corners with only one out an inning later. Junior designated hitter Tim Guidry hit a seed, but it was right at Dean, and Taylor got rookie third baseman Seth Henry to hit into a fielder's choice to escape the sixth without any damage done.
Tulane starter Sean Morgan (8-5) was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five through eight innings. Redshirt-freshman right-hander Stephen Porlier pitched a perfect ninth, including a pair of strikeouts.
ECU right fielder Harrison Eldridge and shortstop Dale Mollenhauer singled to open the game, but Morgan bounced back to get Smith to fly out and first baseman Adam Witter to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the inning with no hard done.
In the home half of the inning, senior left fielder Matt Riser to go all the way to second, sophomore shortstop Cat Everett singled to put runners on the corners, and C-USA Freshman of the Year Warren McFadden hit an RBI-single up the middle to give the Green Wave a 1-0 lead.
Tulane had a chance to blow things open early, but a home-run bid by junior first baseman Mark Hamilton was robbed by a leaping Eldridge. Following a walk to sophomore second baseman Brad Emaus to load the bases, Taylor got Guidry to hit into a fielder's choice to keep the damage to a minimum.
"I thought we let them off the hook a little bit there, we only got one," Jones said. "But you have to tip your cap to (Taylor). If we had gotten more runs in the first, it certainly helps. No question. We were hoping we could...but I'll tell you this. If we stake Sean to a two, three or four-run lead, I'd feel pretty good about our chances."
East Carolina tied the game in the second when designated hitter Ryan Tousley walked, went to second on a single by centerfielder Jay Mattox and scored on a base-hit off the bat of Dean. The big inning, however, came in the fifth when Dean hit a leadoff single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Ryan Wood and scored on a single by Eldridge.
Morgan posted a strikeout for the second out of the inning, but Smith turned on a first-pitch offering in the ensuing at-bat and sent it over the outstretched glove of Riser in left central to provide the difference in the ballgame.
"(Baseball) is a game of inches," Riser said. "When the ball goes up, I thought I had a good bead on it and I didn't think it was getting out. I jump at the wall, and the next thing I know, it's six inches over my glove. We had guys on all day, but (Taylor) made good pitches when he needed to. We hit the ball hard, but just didn't find the holes. Their third baseman played well and made some good plays over there."