June 3, 2005
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - When the coach tells Mark Hamilton to keep his eye on the ball these days, the Tulane sophomore has no problem.
Hamilton, who had midseason Lasik surgery on both eyes last year, drove in seven runs with a grand slam and a 3-run homer to fuel top seed Tulane's 17-7 victory over Southern University in the first game of the New Orleans NCAA regional on Friday.
"I see the ball a lot better now," said Hamilton, who also injured his left wrist last year and tore a ligament in his right thumb this year.
"He's starting to get in a groove because he's getting his reps," Tulane coach Rick Jones said.
And hitting, is contagious, said Tulane outfielder Nathan Southard, who had five hits on six trips to the plate.
Tulane (51-9) collected 21 hits in holding off Southern (29-17), which had 13 hits in the slugfest.
Tulane, the No. 1 seed in the nation, led Conference USA in batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored and home runs with 75, seven of which were grand slams.
The No. 3 seed Jaguars took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run single by Darren Clark. Clark was thrown out at third on an attempted double steal. Southern left two on when Demarcus Coats struck out to end the inning.
The lead did not last long. Tulane sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the second. With two outs, the Greenies suddenly started connecting and scored five runs on four hits and an error to take a 5-2 lead.
Southern added another run in the third, cutting the Green Wave lead to 5-3. In the fifth inning, Coats sent the first pitch over the left field wall for a solo home run to pull Southern to 5-4.
In the bottom of the fifth, Joshua Kirk struggled, loading the bases on two walks and a single. Then with the count 3-1, Hamilton, who had four hits in five at-bats, sent the ball sailing over the center field wall 400 feet away for a grand slam that put Tulane up 9-4.
It was the first home run Kirk (4-4) gave up this year, but it was the last pitch he made in the game. He gave way to Jose Pena who gave up another run to make it 10-4 Tulane.
"Joshua Kirk had so many opportunities when he had two strikes on a batter, but he could not get that third strike to get those guys out," Cador said. "Seems like there must have been six or seven hitters who had two strikes on them, and they fought off good pitches. Then he finally gave in with a walk or a hit."
The Jaguars added a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh.
Then in the bottom of the eighth, Hamilton connected again, driving it over the right field wall for three more runs.
"This was a real tough game and we didn't put it away until the bottom of the eighth," Jones said.
Tulane was scheduled to play next on Saturday night against the winner of Friday night's game between Louisiana-Lafayette and Alabama.