HOUSTON, Texas – Green Wave starter Alex Byo gave his team a gritty 8.1 innings and Conference USA All-Freshman Team honoree Ian Gibaut thwarted a late rally as seventh-seeded Tulane held on to defeat No. 3 seed East Carolina in day three of the 2013 C-USA Baseball Championship on Friday afternoon at Rice University’s Reckling Park.
Tulane held a comfortable 5-2 advantage after six innings, but the Pirates sandwiched a pair of runs in the seventh and another in the ninth around a single Green Wave tally in the eighth. East Carolina had the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at first with two away in the ninth, but Gibaut got Pirates’ centerfielder Ben Fultz to pop out to second to spark the Green Wave celebration.
With the win, Tulane improves to 29-28 on the year and evens its mark in pod play to 1-1. East Carolina, meanwhile, fell to 30-26 overall and 0-2 in pod action. The Pirates will close out their 2013 campaign on Saturday when they square off with Southern Miss at 8 p.m. (ET).
Byo (6-4) finished the day giving up five runs on 12 hits and a pair of walks to go with a strikeout. The stat line, however, did not tell the entire tale of his performance. The right hander was able to wiggle his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam after giving up a pair of runs in the seventh without any further damage done. He retired the side in order in the eighth and got the first out of the ninth before giving up a single to East Carolina second baseman Bryan Bass and giving way to Gibaut. The Green Wave rookie padded his school freshman record with his 12th save after scattering a pair of hits in two-thirds of an inning out of the bullpen.
Following a scoreless first, Tulane drew first blood an inning later when designated hitter Andrew Garner was hit by a pitch, moved up 180 feet on a pair of wild pitches and scored on an RBI-single by second baseman Bowen Woodson. The Pirates went ahead 2-1 in the top of the third courtesy of a run-scoring fielders’ choice groundout by third baseman Zach Houchins and an RBI-single by Fultz, but the Green Wave came right back with two runs of their own to take a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.
With his team down by a run, centerfielder Brandon Boudreaux got things going with a leadoff single, moved to the third on a steal and an error before third baseman Garrett Cannizaro was plunked by an errant offering by East Carolina starter David Lucroy. From there, Garner plated Boudreaux with a sacrifice fly to right and first baseman Sean Potkay followed with an RBI-single up the middle.
Tulane added a run in the fourth when Woodson tripled and scored on a Cameron Burns sacrifice fly, and did the same in the fifth when Boudreaux touched home via a fielders’ choice groundout by Potkay. Neither team scored in the sixth but that was when things got interesting.
Down three runs, East Carolina’s offense erupted for five hits in the top of the seventh. Catcher Luke Lowery opened the inning with a triple to right and scored one at-bat later when left fielder Chris Gosik ripped an RBI-double down the left-field line. Gosik was erased trying to move to third on a ground ball to short, but designated hitter Drew Reynolds followed with double to the right center and Houchins drove home Bass with a high-chopping single to third to make it a one-run ballgame.
First baseman Chase McDonald singled to right to load the bases and Fultz appeared to tie the game with a sacrifice fly to right. Tulane outfielder Tim Yandel saved extra bases with a diving catch on Fultz’ fly ball and while Reynolds trotted home to even the contest momentarily at 5-all, third-base umpire Darrin Sealey ruled the runner left early on appeal and the inning came to an end.
Tulane tacked on an insurance run in the eighth when Burns drew a leadoff walk, went first-to-third on a single by left fielder Richard Carthon and scored on an errant relay back to the infield. The run proved to be a big one as Bass laced a one-out single to left in ninth, moved to second on a Reynolds groundout and scored on a single by Houchins. Pinch runner Philip Clark replaced Houchins on the basepath and moved to third on a single by McDonald before Gibaut was able to record the final out.
Carthon, Boudreaux and Woodson shared team-high hit honors with two each and Potkay paced the Green Wave with a pair of RBI. Lowery led East Carolina with three hits in four plate appearances while Bass, Reynolds, Houchins and McDonald had two hits each.
Lucroy (4-2) was tagged with the loss after giving up three runs on four hits while striking out three in 2.1 innings. Brett Mabry went 5.1 frames out of the bullpen for the Pirates, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk to go with four strikeouts. Reynolds made his team-leading 27th appearance recording a strikeout to end the eighth.
East Carolina Head Coach Billy Godwin Quotes
“We don’t ever quit. That’s the toughness of our kids and I’m really proud of that. There were some things that transpired in the course of that game that we could have controlled. Some of those we didn’t really do a very good job of that. I want to congratulate Tulane, they played well. It’s unfortunate. I told the team after the game, this time of year, if you’re fortunate to get into a tournament like this and you’re playing well at the end of the year. I just prayed that they played well and we haven’t played well in two days.”
On the last game of pod play:
“We talk about character and pride in our program all the time with our players, and that’s what we’re playing for right now. We’re going to get a chance to show what we’re about, and I’m fully in on what they’re about and were going to get a chance to play for pride.”