Tulane Opens C-USA Tourney With 8-6 Win Over UAB

Top-seeded Green Wave to play fourth-seeded East Carolina Thursday at 4 p.m.

HATTIESBURG, Miss.–Redshirt-sophomore Brandon Gomes tossed 3.1 scoreless innings of relief, and the Green Wave erased a 6-3 deficit with a five-run fifth as the top-ranked Tulane University baseball team defeated eight-seeded UAB, 8-6, in the opening round of the 2005 Conference USA Tournament, Tuesday, at Pete Taylor Park.

The Blazers scored five runs in the top of the fifth to claim the three-run lead, but Gomes (7-2) allowed just a pair of hits during his time on the mound and fellow sophomore Daniel Latham pitched his way around a two-out double in the ninth to earn his ninth save of the season. Junior center fielder Nathan Southard was the lone Green Wave player with a multiple-hit performance, including a two-run single in the fifth proved to be the game-deciding play.

"(Winning game one) is good, but the second day is the huge day," Tulane head coach Rick Jones said. "You can't win two until you've won one, so we're taking it one game at a time. Like I've said before, we are trying to threat (the C-USA Tournament) as a warm-up for next week."

With the win, Tulane improves to 48-9 on the year and advances to play fourth-seeded East Carolina on Thursday at 4 p.m. The Blazers, meanwhile, fall to 31-26 overall and will take on fifth-seeded Houston in an elimination game tomorrow at 9 a.m.

Down by three after four and a half, the Green Wave got things going early in the game-deciding stanza as rookie third baseman Brad Emaus singled and senior shortstop Tommy Manzella walked to put a pair on. UAB starter Jeff Brown got a fly ball for the first out of the inning, but that would be the last out he would record as junior first baseman Micah Owings walked to load the bases and senior catcher Greg Dini singled to right to make it a 6-4 affair.

Senior designated hitter Scott Madden followed with an RBI base hit of his own, which chased Brown from the contest, but Blazers' reliever Ryan Huffman issued a bases-loaded walk to senior left fielder Matt Barket to make it a tied ballgame. One out later, Southard delivered the blow of the game with a two-run single to left, and the Green Wave bullpen was up to the task the rest of the way.

"Our guys did a good job of answering in the bottom half (of the fifth)," Jones said. "That really gave the momentum back to us. After that, we did a good job of playing defensively. We didn't let them in. You knew there would be some good defensive players on both teams, and we were fortunate to get that big inning."

UAB opened the scoring in the third when designated hitter Phillip Bell reached on a leadoff single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a two-out base hit off the bat of center fielder Clint Toomey. Tulane answered in home half of the frame on a leadoff home run by senior second baseman Joe Holland, and the Green Wave took advantage of a two-run error in the ensuing inning to stake claim to a 3-1 advantage.

The Blazers, however, would not go away quietly. Catcher Rush Night opened the inning with an infield single that Holland lost in the sun, and shortstop Ryan Metcalf reached on a bunt single in the ensuing at-bat. An errant pickoff throw by Tulane starter J.R. Crowel allowed Night to score and Metcalf to advance to third, and center fielder Clint Toomey made the miscue hurt with an RBI-single through the right side of the infield to tie the game.

Crowel nearly pitched his way out of the inning by retiring the next two men he faced, but first baseman Nathan McCorkle extended the inning with a walk before right fielder Cole Helms hammered a two-run double to left. From there, Gomes came on, and second baseman Seth Rollin greeted him rudely with a run-scoring single to center.

Tulane made its push in the home half of the frame, but the Blazers had something cooking in the eighth when Helms opened the inning with a walk. Gomes, however, would get a lineout off the bat of Rollin, and Manzella caught Helms drifting too far off first for a double play, and the Blazers never threatened again.

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