Tulane responds, earns clutch win

NEW ORLEANS — As hordes of the next generations of Tulane fans searched for Easter eggs on the Turchin Stadium turf on Sunday, Wave coach Rick Jones continued to search for answers for his team’s inconsistent play this season.

He may have found a few Sunday.

A day after one of the worst losses in recent Tulane baseball history, the Green Wave rebounded Sunday to beat Memphis 3-2 and win its first Conference USA series.

Tulane got eight hits off two Memphis pitchers — double its hit total in Saturday’s 16-0 loss to the Tigers. Third baseman Garrett Cannizaro went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the third inning and an RBI double in the fifth. Brandon Boudreaux also went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. Brennan Middleton went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles.

The Green Wave also got a solid pitching performance from David Napoli. The left-handed senior, who is still on the mend from an injury to his nonthrowing forearm, pitched five innings, giving up one unearned run and one hit. He walked four and struck out four. But there was a scary moment in the first inning when the Tigers’ Carter White hit a ball that bounced off Napoli’s left forearm. Napoli made the throw to first and seemed to shake off the hit, but he was iced and bandaged after the game.

“It’s kind of a blur right now,” Napoli said. “He squared it up, and it came right back at me. I don’t know why, but I turned my throwing arm toward it and it hit me right in the other side of the forearm. The adrenaline was going, so I took it and made the throw to first base.

“There may have been a little bit of pain, but the adrenaline was going.”

Jones credited Napoli with Sunday’s victory, praising the senior’s calm under pressure.

“Napoli gave us a great effort,” Jones said. “He was on a pitch count, then he took the shot off his forearm. There was a question whether or not he would even be able to pitch in the second. But he was able to give us five strong innings, and that really helped.”

But Jones still isn’t happy with his team’s defensive play. The Green Wave committed four errors in Saturday’s loss and had two more in Sunday’s win. Both of those led to
Memphis runs Sunday.

“Defensively, we are still not where we need to be,” Jones said. “Both of their runs today were unearned. And we’re not an offensive juggernaut. We’re just not. On days that we don’t pitch and play defense, it’s real tough for us. Today, we pitched real well and got just enough hits.”

Tulane spotted Memphis a 1-0 lead in the first inning thanks to an error. Napoli walked lead-off man Zach Willis, but he was forced out on a grounder by Jake Little. Little stole second. As he stole third, Tulane catcher Blake Croahan threw wide, allowing Little to score.

Tulane came back in the third. Boudreaux and Middleton hit back-to-back singles, then Crohan walked to load the bases. Sean Potkay hit a fly ball to left to score Boudreaux. Cannizaro singled to center to score Middleton.

The Green Wave added a run in the fifth when Middleton singled and Cannizaro doubled.

Memphis got a run in the seventh. Colton Simbreck doubled. Keaton Aldridge then hit a slow grounder just to the left of first base. Potkay scooped and threw to pitcher Daniel Rankin, who ran to cover first. But the throw was wide, allowing Simbreck to score. Aldridge, who was credited with a single, went to second on the throw. But he was left stranded.

The Tigers had two runners in the ninth inning. Aldridge singled but was thrown out stealing second. Griffin singled and stole second. But Ethan Gross grounded out to shortstop to end the game.