May 30, 1999
By JENNA HALVATGIS
AP Sports Writer
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Over the course of a long tournament, it's only a matter of time before a team runs out of fresh arms.
In the case of Auburn and Tulane, it wasn't a question of who would need to use its bullpen, rather who would need to use it first.
Fortunately for Auburn, it was Tulane who had to go to the well first and the Tigers scored seven runs off of the Green Wave's All-American closer in a 13-9 win in the championship game of the NCAA regional on Sunday. The Tigers will next face Florida State in this week's best-of-3 super regionals. The site for that series will be announced Monday.
"We knew it might end up a contest between whose closer would do a better job," said Auburn coach Hal Baird. "Our goal was to get (Brandon) Belanger into the game as early as possible."
Auburn did it by jumping all over Tulane starter James Carroll in the first inning. Dominc Rich opened the game with a leadoff walk before the Tigers hit three straight singles to take a 3-0 lead and chase Carroll from the game.
Tulane was forced to go to Belanger, its All-American closer who had never gone more than 4-1/3 innings. Belanger (3-5) went 7-1/3 innings on Sunday, but gave up seven runs on 12 hits.
"We wanted to go after Belanger early with every bat," said Auburn catcher Casey Dunn. "Our goal every inning was to get him out of the game. He battled hard, but we just got the best of him.
Well, Dunn definitely did.
Dunn went 5-for-5 - four of the hits were off Belanger - and drove in four runs to lead Auburn. His performance overshadowed Auburn closer Colter Bean's game, as well as the four home runs Tulane hit.
The Tigers (46-17) trailed 8-7 after six innings, but took the lead for good on Hayden Gliemmo's two-run single in the seventh. Dunn gave them an insurance run in the eighth with an RBI single and Gliemmo's bases-loaded walk made it 11-8.
"You can't get too far into the pen against Auburn and get them out," said Tulane coach Rick Jones. "I think the story was they played one less game and were able to get deep into our pen."
Tulane (48-17) advanced into the final through the loser's bracket because the Green Wave dropped an 11-inning game to Winthrop in the first round. That meant Tulane had to beat Auburn twice on Sunday to win the regional.
Tulane had forced a second game against the Tigers by beating them 7-5 earlier Sunday. Jake Gautreau drove in three runs and Jason Sparks homered to help the Green Wave win the first game.
In the second game, Auburn also had to go to its bullpen early. But because it was only the Tigers' fourth game of the weekend, they had more choices.
Auburn brought Bean (5-2) into the game in the fifth inning and he allowed just one run on four hits.
He was most impressive in the eighth inning against the heart of Tulane's batting order. Bean needed just four pitches to retire the side and help the Tigers cling to their 11-8 lead.
"When you are in that type of situation, you let the adrenaline take over and you don't think about your arm," said Bean. "You have to do whatever it takes to win."
Dunn was worried about what it might have done to Bean's ego.
"Probably the worst thing that can happen from him going long is he'll be begging for the start next weekend," Dunn joked.
Dunn and Mailon Kent, the tournament MVP, added sacrifice fly's in the ninth to extend Auburn's lead to 13-8.
Tulane, which hit 13 home runs over five tournament games, got homers from Chad Sutter, Sparks, Jake Burnham and Gautreau in the second game.
"Coming in I thought we were an Omaha team," Jones said. "We had a great season, I just think the key was to stay in the winner's bracket."