Tulane holds on to stop Nicholls, 8-7

Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Tulane reliever Kyle McKenzie fires to the plate during a game last season. McKenzie earned a save Friday by pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning to seal Tulane’s 2-0 victory over Middle Tennessee.
Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Tulane reliever Kyle McKenzie fires to the plate during a game last season. McKenzie earned a save Friday by pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning to seal Tulane’s 2-0 victory over Middle Tennessee.

NEW ORLEANS — It had been a long time since Turchin Stadium’s scoreboard saw this much action.

In a season marred by a Conference USA-worst batting average and a myriad of close losses, Tulane reversed both of those trends, hanging on for a thrilling 8-7 win Tuesday night in the Green Wave’s final nonconference outing this season.

It also provided the Green Wave (25-24) with a measure of revenge against the Colonels (23-25), after losing its first two matchups against the in-state rival. But, despite one of its smoothest starts all year, it turned into another pressure-cooker.

Tulane’s 8-2 lead midway through the game got chopped down all the way until the final out, when closer Ian Gibaut finally slammed the door on the tenacious Colonels by inducing a game-ending double play with runners on first and second.

It was the Green Wave’s fifth double play of the night, and Gibaut’s 11th save of the season, coming on the heels of blowing a one-run, ninth-inning lead in dropping the series to Houston on Sunday afternoon.

Early on, it appeared a closer wouldn’t be needed.

Tulane wasted no time in jumping on top of the Colonels, taking advantage of singles by Richard Carthon and Sean Potkay, which were sandwiched around Garrett Cannizaro being hit by a pitch, before Brandon Boudreaux’s RBI groundout, notching a pair of runs in the inning.

The second inning provided a similar output for the Green Wave offense. Bowen Woodson and Carthon doubled down the first and third base lines, before Nick DiMaggio punched a single through the middle, extending the lead to 4-0.

The Green Wave kept piling on in the third, taking advantage of a walk, single, double steal and a two-out, two-RBI single by Bowen Woodson.

However, after Tulane pulled starter Randy LeBlanc due to a limited pitch count, Nicholls St. mounted an attack of its own. Doubles by Leo Vargas and Keith Cormier led to a run and Woodson’s error with the bases loaded allowed another to cross the plate.

Tulane charged back to tack on runs in the fourth and fifth innings, thanks to RBIs from Woodson and Dimaggio, extending the lead to a season-high six runs. Every one of them would be needed.

The Colonels mounted a prolonged rallly off relievers Andrew Reeves and Kyle McKenzie in the sixth, scoring four runs on four hits but leaving two men on base after yet another inning-ending double play.

Another opportunity for Nicholls State to wrestle the lead was squandered in the seventh when catcher Cody Dufrene hit an RBI double down the left-field line, scoring a run, before Carthon’s throw was cut-off by Tulane shortstop Brennan Middleton, who gunned-down potential game-tying run Philip Lyons at the plate.

“The one thing that won’t show up in the box score, that turned the tide when they had the momentum going, was Carthon to Middleton, for the play at the plate,” Tulane coach Rick Jones said. “That was huge for us because it kept us with the lead. That was a momentum turned back toward us.”

Despite not scoring in the final three innings, Tulane was able to hang on to the win and possibly garner some momentum as it heads into its second to last weekend of the season at Central Florida starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday.