Junior first baseman Michael Aubrey went 2-for-4, including a game-winning solo home run in the eighth inning, as the Tulane University baseball team bounced back from a tough loss to Conference USA foe East Carolina one day earlier to defeat the Pirates 5-4 Friday evening at Turchin Stadium.
The Green Wave led 3-2 going into the sixth, but East Carolina had a monster inning with four runs on six hits to take a 4-3 lead. Tulane tied the score in the bottom of the frame courtesy of an RBI single by senior right fielder Aaron Feldman, and Aubrey provided the winning run in the eighth with his 16th home run of the year.
Tulane got a gutsy 7.1-inning start from freshman southpaw J.R. Crowel, who gave up four earned runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking two, and fellow rookie Matt Goebel (7-4) gave up just one hit in 1.2 innings out of the bullpen with three strikeouts to claim his seventh win of the year.
With the win, the Green Wave evened the series at one game each and clinched the No. 3 seed in the C-USA Tournament which starts on Wednesday, May 21 at Turchin Stadium. Tulane improved to 39-16 overall and 19-10 in league play while East Carolina fell to 31-22-1 on the year and 17-12 in C-USA action. The two teams will play the rubber match on Saturday as Tulane and the Pirates close out the regular season with first pitch slated for 2 p.m.
Tulane committed a season-high six errors in Thursday night's 7-6 loss, but it was East Carolina that was plagued with defensive miscues on Friday as the Pirates kicked a routine ground ball and had two throwing errors that led to a pair of unearned runs.
The Green Wave got on the board first when sophomore designated hitter Gerald Clark reached on a two-base throwing error by ECU shortstop Darryl Lawhorn to open the second, advanced to third on a deep flyout to right by Feldman, and scored on an RBI-double off the bat of sophomore second baseman Tommy Manzella one at-bat later to stake Tulane to a 1-0 lead.
Tulane padded its lead in the fourth when sophomore left fielder Wes Swackhamer singled and Clark doubled to open the frame, and Swackhamer touched the paystation on a sacrifice fly to centerfield by Feldman. Clark went to second on an wild throw plateward by Pirate centerfielder Ryan Jones on the play, and Manzella made the miscue hurt one hitter later with a sacrifice fly of his own to give the home team a 3-0 lead.
Crowel, meanwhile, was cruising along through the first five innings as the native of Boynton Beach, Fla., limited the Pirates to just two hits before hitting a bump in the sixth. In the sixth, however, East Carolina got a leadoff homer by nine-hole hitter Ben Sanderson, and Jamie Paige and Ryan Jones followed with back-to-back singles. Crowel got Ryan Longwood to fly out to shallow left for the first out of the stanza, but Lawhorn hit a single through the right side of the infield to plate Paige, Jake Smith doubled to left to bring Jones home, and Mark Minicozzi singled up the middle to score Lawhorn to give the Pirates a 4-3 lead.
Crowel got out of the inning with a pop-up to second base and a fly out to deep right, and Tulane answered in the home half of the inning when Aubrey hit a leadoff single to right, went to second on a walk by Swackhamer, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Feldman's RBI single.
Tulane's starter came back out in the seventh to retire the side in order, and following a groundout by Lawhorn to open the seventh, Crowel was lifted for Goebel. The freshman right-hander struck out Smith looking for the second out of the frame, and Minicozzi flew out to center to set up Aubrey's heroics in the bottom of the inning.
ECU reliever Chris Sears (5-5), who got the win in Thursday's game, had limited the Green Wave to just one hit since coming on with nobody out in the sixth, and retired the first man he faced in the eighth, but Aubrey jumped on the first pitch offered from the senior righty and lifted over the wall in center field to account for the final score.
The Pirates put the tying run on base in the ninth as second baseman Kevin O'Sullivan singled with one away, but Goebel got Sanderson on a called third strike and induced a 4-3 groundout from Paige to seal the win.
Tulane will honor its senior class prior to Saturday's regular-season finale, and the Green Wave will also celebrate Armed Forces Day at the ballpark as anyone with a military ID is eligible for $3 tickets to the game. Following the Saturday showdown with the Pirates, Tulane returns to action on Wednesday when they open C-USA Tourney play against the league's sixth seed – which has yet to be determined – at 7:30 p.m.
TU Bounces Back for 5-4 Win vs. ECU
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