NEW ORLEANS — Tulane baseball coach Rick Jones missed Friday’s Conference USA opener against Memphis with an undisclosed illness. His team looked pretty sick for a while, too, before getting healthy in a hurry.
Coming of an embarrassing loss to UNO on Tuesday, the Green Wave rallied to win 6-4 after falling behind 4-0 while going hitless in the first three innings. Brandon Boudreaux drilled a line-drive single to left field with two outs in the sixth — one of his three hits in the game — to drive in the go-ahead runs.
Tulane (13-11, 1-0 Conference USA) remained above .500. Memphis (12-9) lost for the fifth time in eight games.
“I’d be lying to you if I said (the four-run deficit) wasn’t concerning,” said associate coach Chad Sutter, who shared coaching duties with assistant Jake Gautreau in Jones’ absence. “We had a lot of energy on the bench. Guys were excited to play, and we were able to bounce back.”
The Green Wave appeared helpless early against Memphis starter Sam Moll, who allowed two hits in seven innings last year as the Tigers shut out the Wave 10-0 in Memphis. But Tulane, which entered with a paltry .250 batting average, finally began figuring him out in the fourth.
Brennan Middleton singled, went to third on a single from Blake Crohan and scored on a sacrifice fly from Sean Potkay to make the score 4-1.
Boudreaux drove in the second run in the fifth, but Moll appeared ready to get out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam when he fielded a grounder from Crohan and threw to the plate for a forceout. With plenty of time to get Crohan at first for the double play, catcher Keaton Aldridge threw into right field, allowing the third and fourth runs to score.
The error was Memphis’ second of the inning. Entering the game, Tulane’s opponents were fielding .981, making only 16 errors to the Green Wave’ 27.
“The breaks, if you can get them, we’ll take them,” Boudreaux said. “It was good to get back in the game and then especially to take a lead there late.”
Moll did not return for the sixth. Reliever Heith Hatfield (1-1) got two outs, then walked the next two batters and left for 6-foot-7 junk-baller Conner Porter, who walked Richard Carthon to load the bases.
Boudreaux followed with his clutch hit, which dropped a few feet in front of left fielder Jake Little.
“It’s good to come out here today and flush everything that’s happened preconference and get a win against a good team in Memphis with one of their best guys on the bump,” Boudreaux said. “We didn’t get down in the dugout when we got down on the scoreboard.”
Tulane released a statement before the game that Jones was out due to illness and was expected to return for Saturday’s game. Sutter, who said he learned Jones would not be there right before the game, added (Sutter) had missed Thursday’s practice with the flu and a bug was going around the coaches.
Friday’s result might help Jones’ recovery. Tulane’s six runs were its most this year in games not played on a Sunday — the day teams throw their weakest pitchers.
Tony Rizzotti (4-2) earned the victory, allowing nine hits and three earned runs in seven innings. Ian Gibaut picked up his fourth save, stranding runners on first and second in the ninth.
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