June 5, 2004
OXFORD, Miss. - Sophomore southpaw J.R. Crowel fanned seven in a complete-game effort, junior shortstop Tommy Manzella went 3-for-4 and sophomore right fielder Brian Bogusevic hammered a three-run homer as the Tulane University baseball team blanked fourth-seeded Western Kentucky, 7-0, Saturday afternoon in the winner's bracket of the 2004 NCAA Oxford Regional at Swayze Field.
With the win, Tulane improves to 40-19 on the year - the eighth 40-win season by the Green Wave under Jones, who is in his 11th season in Olive and Blue - and the squad advances to the Regional Championship Game Sunday at 1 p.m. versus the winner of the Washington/Western Kentucky matchup. The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, fall to 35-27 and will face the Huskies of UW in an elimination game later today at 7 p.m. Tulane needs just one win in two chances Sunday to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals which begin on Friday, June 11.
The Green Wave plated three runs in the bottom of the first, and that was all Crowel would need as the crafty lefty faced just four more than the minimum for the contest. The shutout was the eighth of the season for Tulane, which ties for second-most in school history, and marks the first time since a 1-0 victory over North Carolina State in the 1988 NCAA East Regional in Gainesville, Fla., that the squad recorded a shutout in postseason play.
"We played a complete game today," head coach Rick Jones said. "Timely hits really set the tone for us in the first inning. J.R. Crowel was outstanding with great command of his pitches, especially his breaking ball. That took him from being a good pitcher to an outstanding pitcher."
Eight of the nine Green Wave batters posted at least one hit, including a pair of hits by sophomore centerfielder Nathan Southard, who drove in a run, tallied three putouts and had an outfield assist. No hit, however, was bigger than Bogusevic's two-out, three-run blast in the seventh that capped a four-run frame and clinched the game for Tulane.
Junior catcher Greg Dini put the Green Wave on the board with a sacrifice fly to center, but Tulane was not done as freshman designated hitter Mark Hamilton hit an RBI-single through the right side of the infield to plate Barket, and junior first baseman Wes Swackhamer followed with a run-scoring base knock of his own to give the home team a 3-0 advantage.
The Hilltoppers had a chance to get on the board in the top of the seventh as left fielder Dominic Rio ripped a one-out double to right and advanced to third on a groundout by second baseman Matt Johnston, but Crowel bounced back to strike out right fielder Antone Towns to get out of the inning with the shutout intact.
The Green Wave made the missed opportunity hurt in the bottom of the frame as junior second baseman Joe Holland hit a one-out double before Southard ripped an RBI-single to center to make it 4-0. Manzella followed with a single to chase Western Kentucky starter Daniel Faulkner from the game, and it looked as if the Hilltoppers would get out of the stanza without any more damage done as reliever Michael Shope struck out the first man he faced. Bogusevic had other ideas, however, as the big lefty hammered a first-pitch offering over the wall in right to account for the final score.
The game, however, belonged to Crowel who recorded his third complete-game victory of the season and first shutout of 2004. He scattered four hits on the afternoon, walked just a pair, and only allowed two Hilltoppers to get as far as second base to improve to 8-2. Faulkner did not fare as well as the junior right-hander gave up six earned runs on nine hits while walking two and striking out a pair to fall to 8-6 on the season.
Tulane will send senior right-hander Cory Hahn to the mound in the championship game. A second-team All-Conference USA honoree, Hahn enters the contest 8-2 on the year with a 4.30 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 81.2 innings of work.
Tulane will appear in a regional championship game for the fourth time in school history and for the first time since the 2001 New Orleans Regional when the Green Wave defeated Oklahoma State, 9-8, to advance to the Super Regional.