Green Wave defense turns five double plays during the game
NEW ORLEANS - An early wave of offense from the Tulane baseball squad proved fruitful, as a furious rally from the Nicholls State Colonels was not enough at the end of the 8-7 contest in favor of the Green Wave on Tuesday evening at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
The Tulane (25-24) defense turned five double plays, including a game-ending double play off the bat of Nicholls State (23-26) batter Philip Lyons. A Green Wave squad hasn't turned more than four twin-killings since the 2003 team did so against UAB on April 20 of that year.
Despite taking their largest lead of the season when they were up 6-0 heading into the top of the fourth, the Colonels continued to battle, scoring two in that frame before the Greenies tacked on a run in each of the fourth and fifth innings.
In the top of the sixth, Nicholls State notched four runs before adding another in the seventh to cut Tulane's early lead into a one-run contest. Junior Brady Wilson and freshman Ian Gibaut were able to keep any runs from crossing the plate in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve Tulane's victory.
The one-run contest was the 20th the Greenies have played in this season, notching an 11-9 record in those games.
"I don't know if anybody in the country has played that many close games this year," said Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. "We're 11-9 in one-run games, and 7-7 in two-run games. Tonight was the biggest lead we've had all year at 6-0; and, the thing that was different tonight was the fact that because Tony Rizzotti is hurt now, Randy LeBlanc had to be limited because he's going to start on Sunday."
LeBlanc came out of the gate strong, pitching 3.0 innings in a limited amount of pitches while allowing only two hits. His teammates gave him an early lead, as they scored two runs in each of the first three innings. Freshman Richard Carthon singled off Nicholls State starter Taylor Byrd to lead the game. With one out, Byrd (5-5) allowed a one-out RBI single to senior Sean Potkay after hitting senior Garrett Cannizaro to put him on base. After moving to third on the Potkay single, Cannizaro scored on a groundout by senior Brandon Boudreaux to go up 2-0 after the bottom of the first.
The bats weren't done, as junior Bowen Woodson doubled to right field with one out in the bottom of the second after Byrd was replaced on the mound by Mike Suk. Woodson went to third on a groundout and scored on a ground-rule double by Carthon down the left field line. The speedy freshman moved to third on a wild pitch, and eventually came home to score on a single up the middle from junior Nick DiMaggio.
Nicholls - who used a new pitcher to start every inning on the evening - replaced Suk on the mound in the bottom of the third with Justin Sinibaldi, but the results were the same. Boudreaux was issued a four pitch, one-out walk, and he advanced to second on a single by senior Brennan Middleton. With two outs, and Woodson at the plate, a double-steal was ordered on the base paths, advancing both runners up 90 feet. It ended up paying off for the Greenies when Woodson singled through the left side to score both Boudreaux and Middleton.
Senior Andrew Reeves came on in the top of the fourth to relieve LeBlanc (4-3), and after striking out Leo Vargas, he issued back-to-back doubles to Keith Cormier and Brandon Jackson - the second of which scored Cormier for Nicholls' first run of the game. Jackson stole third, and he came home on a single from Lyons. Despite allowing four hits in the inning, Reeves was able to get out of the jam when his defense turned a double play in their third straight inning.
Tulane added a run in both the fourth and the fifth to go up 8-2. Nicholls State's Jacob Rodrigue allowed a double to Carthon to lead off the bottom of the fourth, and he advanced to third on an errant pickoff attempt from the pitcher. Carthon came home to score on a sacrifice fly from DiMaggio. In the fifth, Middleton reached first on an infield bunt off Marc Picciola, eventually advancing to third on a double by freshman Tim Yandel and scoring on a sacrifice fly from Woodson.
Things got hairy in the top of the sixth when Nicholls State loaded the bases with no outs before junior righty Kyle McKenzie came to the mound. Mike Barba immediately laced a double down the left field line that plated two runs before Cody Dufrene hit a sacrifice fly for the team's third run of the frame. They weren't done, however, as Vargas hit a bases loaded single to score Barba. Once again, the Tulane defense came through as Cormier grounded into a double play to end the threat.
In the top of the seventh, Tyler Duplantis doubled to left field with one out, and Wilson was brought on in favor of McKenzie. Wilson walked Lyons on four straight pitches before inducing a fly out for the second out of the inning. However, a double by Dufrene down the left field line scored Duplantis to make it a one-run game. On the play, Lyons attempted to score from first, but a fantastic relay from Carthon to Middleton to freshman catcher Cameron Burns kept Lyons from scoring safely, and more than likely saved the game for the Green Wave.
"The one thing that won't show up in the box score, that turned the tide when they had the momentum going, was Carthon to Middleton, for the play at the plate to Burns," said Jones. "That was huge for us because it kept us with the lead."
Wilson retired the side in the top of the eighth, but walked Cormier to lead off the ninth, and allowed him to reach second on a sacrifice bunt from Jackson. Gibaut came on in relief, and hit Duplantis to put runners on first and second with just one out. Fortunately, Gibaut was able to seal the victory for the Greenies when his 2-and-1 pitch to Lyons was grounded to Middleton for the game ending double play.
Byrd was credited with the loss, giving up two earned runs in 1.0 inning of action. Gibaut notched his 11th save of the season for his work in the ninth inning.
For the fourth time in the last six games, Tulane has notched double digit hits, as the Greenies collected 10 on the evening. Carthon lead the way with three, and Middleton and Woodson collected two each. DiMaggio kept his hitting streak alive with a 1-for-3 effort, extending the streak to eight games. Junior Andrew Garner was given the night off, but will return this weekend.
On Thursday, the Green Wave will fly to Orlando to face UCF in a pivotal three-game weekend series on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The pitching staff will see its first change in quite some time, as usual Friday night starter Rizzotti will not make his regularly scheduled start due to a back strain he sustained last Friday against Houston. Senior Alex Byo, the normal Saturday starter, will take the mound on Friday, while lefty senior David Napoli will start on Saturday instead of his usual Sunday spot. LeBlanc will return to the mound for Sunday.
Fans can follow the Tulane baseball program on Twitter (@GreenWaveBSB) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball.
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