HOUSTON – After establishing an early lead, the Tulane Green Wave baseball squad couldn’t quite hold off the Southern Miss Golden Eagles during their first game of the Conference USA Championship, dropping the tilt 10-7 at Reckling Park in Houston.
Tulane (28-28) went up 6-2 in the top of the fifth, running Southern Miss’ (29-25) stellar starting pitcher Andrew Pierce off the mound in just 4.2 innings. But Southern Miss put a five-spot on the board in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead before Tulane tied things up in the sixth at seven runs each. Another three runs in the bottom of the seventh – including two on a home run by Southern Miss’ Blake Brown – ultimately put the Green Wave under.
“I thought our energy level when we came out was really good,” said Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. “I thought we executed very well. We had a couple of hit and runs and we ran the bases well. Tony (Rizzotti) got out to a good start, but it was just one of those things where he had to come out after getting a little tired. We just didn’t get it done out of the bullpen like we wanted to.”
Tulane got things going early offensively, as a trio of seniors reached base on Southern Miss starter Andrew Pierce. Brennan Middleton reached on an error by the Golden Eagles’ shortstop, and Brandon Boudreaux moved him up a bag on a single into center field. Both runners moved into scoring position on a groundout by junior Andrew Garner before Garrett Cannizaro launched a two-RBI single into center field to score both base runners.
Rizzotti made his first appearance since pitching 4.0 innings against Houston on May 3 before leaving the contest with a strained lower back. He only needed a few pitches to retire the first three batters he faced in the bottom of the first, all on pop ups.
Freshman Tim Yandel – who got his first start since May 7 – kept the hit party going, as he blooped a single into left center before trotting to third on a single through the right side by fellow freshman Cameron Burns. Richard Carthon – another freshman – brought Yandel home for the game’s third run on a fielder’s choice that put Burns out at second.
In the top of the third, Boudreaux reached base on another error by the Southern Miss infield, but was thrown out at second on a steal attempt. With two outs, Cannizaro walked, but he was immediately thrown out at first by Southern Miss’ catcher on a pickoff throw.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Southern Miss put their first base runner on when Chase Fowler reached on a short bunt down the third base line. Dillon Day poked a single through the right side for the second hit of the inning and Rizzotti issued his first walk of the game to Austin Roussel to load the bases with two outs. An error on a throw across the diamond on a grounder by Isaac Rodriguez allowed Fowler to cross home plate to cut Tulane’s lead to just two runs. Fortunately, Robbins grounded out unassisted to senior Sean Potkay at first to leave the bases juiced.
Junior Bowen Woodson notched his first base hit of the game in the top of the fourth on a single to right field. On a hit-and-run, Yandel laced a single into right center to move Woodson to third base with just one out. Burns put down a beautiful bunt in front of home plate to score Woodson, and with no one covering first, Burns was able to reach. Carthon singled through the right side for his second hit of the game to load the bases before Yandel crossed home for Tulane’s fifth run on an infield groundout by Middleton. With Burns at third and Carthon at second, Pierce put Boudreaux on intentionally to load the bases. However, a short fly ball by Garner to center field was caught by a diving Day to keep any more runs from scoring.
Tim Lynch sent a sharp single up the middle to open the bottom of the fourth, and Bradley Roney singled through the right side before any outs were recorded. Brown crushed a double to center, and both Lynch and Roney were rounding third closely, but Roney slipped rounding the hot corner and was thrown out by Burns at third after Lynch scored. Junior Kyle McKenzie came to the mound and recorded a quick groundout that moved Brown to third. On the next pitch, a ball got past Burns behind the dish, but he was able to recover and toss to a covering McKenzie to get a streaking Brown out at home by a hair.
Potkay doubled to the left center wall with one out in the top of the fifth, and he moved to third base with two outs on a wild pitch. Yandel then notched his third hit – a double right over the outstretched glove of a leaping third baseman - to score Potkay, and chase Pierce from the mound. Jay Myrick headed to the hill for the Golden Eagles, and a quick lineout ended the inning for the Green Wave.
Southern Miss had a huge showing at the plate in the bottom of the fifth. McKenzie returned to the mound for the Greenies, and he issued a leadoff walk to Travis Creel to get things started. Day followed that up with a hard hit single that clipped the glove of a diving Middleton at shortstop. McKenzie then walked Roussel to load the bases. Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Creel to make the game 6-3. Robbins sent a line drive into center field, scoring Day, and forcing Tulane to make another pitching change. Garner came to the mound and immediately gave up a double to Lynch to score Roussel, giving Tulane just a one run lead. Roney lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to tie the game. After walking Brown, a grounder right up the middle by Fowler allowed Lynch to score, giving Southern Miss their first lead of the game.
Carthon led off the top of the sixth with a single to left field, and he was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Middleton. With two outs, Garner hit a routine – but hard hit – grounder to shortstop that found its way right underneath the glove of Creel, allowing Carthon to tie the game at seven.
Garner walked Roussel with one out and then allowed a single to Rodriguez before senior David Napoli came to the mound to make his first relief appearance since Feb. 26. The southpaw only needed one pitch, as Robbins grounded into a double play to end the Golden Eagles threat.
After striking pinch hitter Michael Sterling with a pitch, Napoli (4-3) allowed a double to the left-center field wall to Roney that plated Sterling to reestablish the lead for the Golden Eagles. Brown then blasted a two-run homer to left to put Southern Miss up by three. Senior Tucker Oakley relieved Napoli on the mound, and he recorded three quick outs to take the game to the eighth.
With two outs in the top of the eighth, and with Nick Johnson taking the mound for the Golden Eagles, Middleton singled to left field for his lone hit of the game, and he was joined on the base paths by Boudreaux, who walked on four straight pitches. However, a called strike three on Garner left the bases stranded.
In the top of the ninth, Johnson allowed a single to Potkay, but recorded three outs for his first save of the year. Myrick (4-0) was credited with the win after going 2.1 innings in relief.
The Greenies will have Thursday off before returning to Reckling Park at 11am CT on Friday to play East Carolina. The third game of the tournament for the Green Wave will be at 3pm CT on Saturday against Houston