The Green Wave committed four errors, including two in the eighth, as the Tulane University baseball team dropped a tough 5-4 decision to host Southern Miss Saturday afternoon in Conference USA action at Pete Taylor Park.
Tulane broke open a 2-2 tie with a pair of runs in the top of the eight when sophomore second baseman Tommy Manzella and freshman left fielder Nathan Southard hit back-to-back RBI to plate junior first baseman Michael Aubrey and rookie right fielder Brian Bogusevic, respectively.
But disaster struck in the home half of the frame when nine-hole hitter Matt Shepherd hit a fly ball to center that popped out of the glove of Tulane's Jonny Kaplan, Jeremy Hoffpauir drew a walk and Jason Lowery advanced the pair with a sacrifice bunt. The Green Wave nearly got out of the inning unscathed as reliever Joey Charron struck out Jeff Cook, but Brad Willcutt hit a three-run homer on at-bat later to provide the winning runs for the Golden Eagles.
With the loss, Tulane falls to 19-9 on the year and 4-4 in C-USA play. Southern Miss, meanwhile, improves to 20-7 overall and 7-1 in league action.
The Tulane offense did an admirable job for the day, tallying 10 hits to record their eighth-straight double-digit hit day. Aubrey and Southard both went 3-for-3 to lead the team and share game-high honors. It was the defense that haunted the Green Wave all day, however, as the four errors cost the boys in olive and blue three runs that turned out to be the difference in the ballgame.
The loss spoiled a stellar pitching performance by freshman southpaw J.R. Crowel who went seven-plus innings for the Green Wave, giving up four runs – two earned – on five hits while striking out three and walking three.
The Green Wave got on the board first when they took advantage of an error by Southern Miss to plate a pair of runs in the fifth. Tulane loaded the bases with a pair of walks by junior third baseman Turner Brumby and Aubrey, and a base hit by Kaplan, before Bogusevic hit a hot shot to second base. Golden Eagles' second-sacker Hoffpauir gloved the ball cleanly, but threw wide of first to allow Tulane to take a 2-0 lead.
Southern Miss answered in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff home run by Cliff King, and tied the score in the seventh when Willcutt hit a leadoff double, went to third on a single by King and came plateward on a balk by Crowel.
The first four Tulane batters had base hits in the eighth, including Manzella and Southard's RBI knocks, and the Green Wave had a pair of runners in scoring position following a sacrifice bunt by junior catcher Brian Bormaster. But USM reliever John Nicholas got Wes Swackhamer to pop out to shortstop and snared a well-hit ball by Brumby to get out of the inning without any more damage done.
Following Willcutt's bomb in the bottom of the eighth, Nicholas retired the first two batters he faced, but Tulane did not go down without a fight as Aubrey singled and pinch-hitter Aaron Feldman was hit by pitch to put the go-ahead run on base. From there, however, Southern Miss brought in Austin Tubbs – Friday's winner – and Tubbs got Manzella to strikeout on three straight pitches to earn his third save of the year.
Tulane and Southern Miss close out the weekend on Sunday with first pitch slated for 1 p.m.