NEW ORLEANS, La.–Junior centerfielder Nathan Southard hit a walk-off home run and starting pitcher Micah Owings posted a career-high 10 strikeouts as the No. 3 Tulane University baseball team defeated No. 25 East Carolina, 6-5, in the Conference USA opener for both teams Friday evening at Turchin Stadium.
Tulane led 5-4 after eight, but the Pirates would tie the score with a single run in the top of the ninth. The home half of the frame would not last long, however, as Southard turned on a first-pitch curveball offering from Pirates' reliever Ricky Brooks and sent it over the wall in left to give the Green Wave the series-opening victory over the defending C-USA champs. With the win, Tulane improves to 17-3 on the year. East Carolina, meanwhile, falls to 14-3.
"To open up conference and be able to come back and pull to pull out a victory, it says that we can fight when we're down," Southard said.
"Hopefully, we wont' have to do that much, but we know we can do it."
The Green Wave hit three home runs on the day, with solo shots off the bat of freshman third baseman Brad Emaus and senior second baseman Joe Holland, but none was bigger than Southard's game-deciding blow. Both Southard and Emaus posted a pair of hits to lead Tulane, and Emaus led all players with three RBI.
The Pirates jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, roughing up Owings for three runs on four hits in the first and adding another run on a pair of hits in the second. Owings, however, would not give up another hit in the rest of his eight-inning performance, and the lone baserunner he allowed from the third through eighth inning was a two-out walk in the sixth.
"I thought Owings was absolutely dominating after the second," head coach Rick Jones said. "I'm learning more about him as we coach him, but that's the way his patter has been – he gets stronger as the game goes on. The only reason we took him out was his pitch count. Otherwise, we would have left him in."
The Tulane offense, meanwhile, came alive in the third when Southard hit a leadoff double and scored one at-bat later on an RBI-single by senior shortstop Tommy Manzella. Emaus made it a 4-2 ballgame one inning later with a two-out solo bomb, and the Green Wave would tie things up in the sixth.
Senior right fielder Matt Barket led off the sixth with one his three walks on the day, and senior catcher Greg Dini hit a one-out single two hitter later. East Carolina right-hander Kevin Rhodes, who came on in relief of starter P.J. Connelly with one out in the fifth, posted a strikeout on a pitch in the dirt for the second out of the inning, but the two Tulane baserunners were allowed to advance on a wild pitch. From there, Emaus drilled a 2-2 pitch into the game in right center for a two-run double to tie the game.
Following a three-up, three-down performance by Owings in the top of the seventh, Holland broke the deadlock with a leadoff homer in the home half of the inning.
The score would remain that way until the ninth, but East Carolina would not go away quietly. Pirates' centerfielder Brian Cavanaugh hit a one-out single through the left side of the infield, and right fielder Harrison Eldridge turned on a two-strike, two-out offering from Tulane reliever Daniel Latham for an RBI-double to make it a 5-5 balgame and set up Southard's ninth-inning heroics.
Rookie right-hander Sean Morgan (2-0), who came on following Eldridge's double, stranded the Pirates go-ahead run 180 feet from the plate, and would get the win after striking out the only man he faced. Brooks (0-1), who did not allow a hit in both the seventh and eighth innings, was saddled with the loss after giving up the long ball to Southard.
The Green Wave and Pirates return to action on Saturday for game two of the series at 2 p.m., and will close out the weekend on Sunday with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. For ticket information, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office at (504) 861-WAVE.
RADIO WAVES: Saturday's game between Tulane and East Carolina will be broadcast live on the radio on both WRBH 88.3 FM and on WTIX AM 690. Sunday's game, meanwhile, will be on WRBH only. Live stats will be provided for both games via Game Tracker on the internet at www.tulanegreenwave.com.
Southard's Homer Powers Tulane Past ECU, 6-5
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