METAIRIE, La.–Senior shortstop Tommy Manzella went 2-for-5 with a double and senior catcher Greg Dini capped a five-run seventh with a disouted three-run homer, but it was not enough as the No. 1 Tulane University baseball team fell to No. 3 Cal State Fullerton, 9-8, Saturday afternoon at Zephyr Field before a near-sellout crowd of 9,385.
The Titans (14-2) held a 2-1 lead after four, and seemed to blow the game open with four in the fifth and another three in the seventh. Tulane (14-3) would answer with two in the bottom of the fifth and a five-spot in the eighth, but Cal State Fullerton closer Vinnie Pestano shook off a rough start to his outing to retire the final seven men he faced to earn his fourth save of the year.
"I admire the way our kids battled back, but we didn't do some things we needed to do to win the ball game," head coach Rick Jones said. "Cal State had some great at-bats early in the game and we didn't have enough quality at-bats early."
Trailing 9-3 after six and a half innings, Tulane's comeback bid began when pinch-hitter Will Rice was hit by a pitch, junior centerfielder Nathan Southard walked and Manzella singled through the left side of the infield to load the bases with only one out.
Senior left fielder Matt Barket got an RBI the easy way with a base on balls to chase reliever Eric Gagnier from the game, and senior first baseman Scott Madden – who extended his hit streak to 13 games with a single in the sixth inning – hit an RBI-fielder's choice to cut the lead to four. From there, Dini turned on a 2-2 offering from Pestano drove the ball of the top of the wall in left. Although originally ruled in play, and Dini appeared to have been held to a double, the umpires huddled and later ruled it a home run to make it a 9-8 contest.
Tulane then got the tying run in scoring position as junior right fielder Brian Bogusevic followed with a double to left, but Pestano would get out of the inning with a strikeout and the Green Wave would not threaten again.
The Green Wave opened the scoring on Saturday with an RBI-fielder's choice by Madden to plate Southard in the first inning, but Cal State Fullerton would use the long ball as left fielder Danny Dorn hit a one-out solo home run in the second to tie things up before right fielder Sergio Pedroza's leadoff shot two innngs later put the Titans ahead, 2-1.
Third baseman Ronnie Prettyman hit a leadoff bomb in the fifth, and later in the stanza, second baseman Justin Turner hit an RBI double to set up Pedroza's second homer of the day to stake the Titans to a 6-1 advantage.
Tulane would get a freebie in the fifth as Bogusevic drew a leadoff walk, was balked to second and was able to score on a wild pitch and errant throw to second by catcher John Curtis, and freshman third baseman Brad Emaus crushed a one-out home run to dead center to cut the lead to three.
Cal State Fullerton would get the three runs right back plus one in the sixth, and the Titans' bullpen would perform just well enough to keep Tulane at arm's reach. CSF starter Ryan Schreppel earned the win after giving up three runs on thre hits while striking out two and walking four in 5.2 innings to improve to 3-0.
Tulane starter Micah Owings did not fare as well, however, as the big right-hander allowed seven runs on eight hits while striking out four in five-plus frames and was tagged with the loss to fall to 2-2. Sophomore Daniel Latham allowed a pair of runs in 2.1 innings, and rookie Sean Morgan pitched his way around a pair of walks to keep Cal State Fullerton off the scoreboard for the final 1.2 frames.
Following Sunday's series final, the Green Wave return to action on Tuesday, March 15, when they play host to Texas Southern at 6:30 p.m. at Turchin Stadium. For ticket information, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office at (504) 861-WAVE.
No. 1 Tulane Falls To No. 3 Fullerton State, 9-8
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