Rain, East Carolina dampen Green Wave’s spirit, 4-2

DO NOT RUN DO NOT RUN DO NOT RUN Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD --  East Carolina University's Luke Lowery heads home past the Tulane bench on a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning Sunday, April 14, 2014,  at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium in New Orleans. ECU won 4-2.  MAGS OUT / INTERNET  OUT/ONLINE OUT/NO SALES/TV OUT/FOREIGN OUT/ LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC./GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT/225/10/12/IN REGISTER/LBI CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS OUT/ MANDATORY CREDIT: SCOTT THRELKELD / THE ADVOCATE
DO NOT RUN DO NOT RUN DO NOT RUN Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- East Carolina University's Luke Lowery heads home past the Tulane bench on a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning Sunday, April 14, 2014, at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium in New Orleans. ECU won 4-2. MAGS OUT / INTERNET OUT/ONLINE OUT/NO SALES/TV OUT/FOREIGN OUT/ LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC./GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT/225/10/12/IN REGISTER/LBI CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS OUT/ MANDATORY CREDIT: SCOTT THRELKELD / THE ADVOCATE

NEW ORLEANS — A torrential downpour stopped just in time for Tulane to play the final game of its weekend series with East Carolina on Sunday, but clouds continued to hover over the Green Wave’s season.

Tulane, on pace to finish with its worst batting average since 1968, failed to come up with clutch hits once again, dropping the series decider 4-2 at Turchin Stadium. The Green Wave (18-20, 5-7 Conference USA) fell two games below .500 overall in a matchup of two struggling teams trying to get back to .500.

East Carolina (17-19, 3-6), which sported Conference USA’s-worst earned run average before the weekend, limited Tulane to nine runs in 34 innings while taking two of three.

“Offensively, if you look at what’s happened in the season, we either win or lose close, or if we don’t pitch that day it’s tough work to even stay close, simple as that,” Tulane coach Rick Jones said. “That’s not being negative on our club. That’s just the way it is.”

The first two games of the series went extra innings. This one was settled in the ninth after Tulane, batting .234 for the year, came up empty on a scoring opportunity in the eighth.

Catcher Cameron Burns, in for the injured Blake Crohan, struck out looking on a full count with the bases loaded. Leadoff hitter Richard Carthon, ending a 1-for-15 weekend, followed with a weak grounder to first.

East Carolina’s Luke Lowery then crushed a one-out, solo home run to left-center off Tulane freshman reliever Ian Gibaut (1-2). The Pirates tacked on an insurance run they would not need when the Green Wave went down quietly in its half of the ninth.

Tulane wasted another strong performance from starting pitcher David Napoli (1.73 ERA), who tied a career high with eight strikeouts while allowing four hits and two runs in eight innings. He was unlucky to give up any runs.

With strong winds gusting to left field early, Eat Carolina’s Nick Thompson reached on an infield pop that fell untouched on the turf between second and third base in the second inning. Two batters later, Chase McDonald hit a lazy fly that carried over the wall down the left field line.

Carthon kept backing up before leaping in vain to stop the ball from going out of the park.

“It was a routine fly ball,” Carthon said. “I was going in to catch it, and the wind gust took it. I started going back, and I saw it was about to go out, so I jumped for it and it hit the top of my glove.”

The sun shined for most of the game, which was delayed a half hour by a prolonged deluge that left water up to the first step of the dugouts a little more than an hour before the first pitch at 11:30 a.m. Afterward, the Green Wave’s mood did not match the bright sky.

Tulane last finished below .500 in 1993, the year before Jones arrived.

“We have a losing record here in the middle of April, conference and overall,” Jones said. “It’s hard for me to even think about, much less say.”