Tulane starts fast, holds on to beat ULL

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LAFAYETTE — Tulane put its first six hitters on base on the way to a five-run first inning Tuesday night, and the Green Wave wound up needing every one of those.

In fact, it was an unearned run the Wave pushed across in the top of the eighth inning that may have been the biggest in a 7-5 college baseball victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in Tulane’s first visit to Moore Field in a decade.

Wave pinch hitter Tim Yandel singled with two outs in that eighth inning, scoring Andrew Garner from third base with what proved to be a big insurance run — especially when the Ragin’ Cajuns had the two tying runs in scoring position in both the eighth and ninth innings.

“That pinch hit stretched the lead for us,” Wave coach Rick Jones said. “There are plateau runs in games, and that was a big one. It takes the leadoff bunt away, takes the sacrifice away and takes the squeeze away and they (Cajuns) really like doing that.”

Cajun coach Tony Robichaux, whose team has lost two straight at home after winning 11 in a row a Moore Field, agreed.

“Give them credit,” Robichaux said. “They got the run, and that took a lot away from us. But when you spot somebody runs, it makes you play an imperfect game perfectly, and we didn’t do that.”

Tulane (17-18) pushed its first five hitters across the plate in the first, keyed by Sean Potkay’s two-run single that made it 3-0, and that became huge when ULL cleanup hitter Tyler Girouard came back with a three-run homer to left in the bottom of that inning to cut the difference to 5-3.

But Wave starter Randy LeBlanc settled in and checked the Cajuns (22-10) on only one hit over the next five innings. He walked five and struck out four before giving way to closer Ian Gibaut in the seventh.

“That’s the best that LeBlanc has pitched since the Tommy John injury two years ago,” Jones said. “He settled in and really pitched well.”

So did Cajun reliever Kody Smith, who came on after starter Chase Traffica (3-2) allowed the first five to reach base. Smith ended up pitching into the eighth inning, allowing only a two-out RBI single to Richard Carthon in the fourth.

“He did what we needed him to do,” Robichaux said. “He came in and gave us a chance to win. He gave us every chance ... he slowed the game down. We just have to do a better job of getting out of that inning.”

LeBlanc walked leadoff hitter Chase Compton in the seventh before giving way to Gibaut, who picked up his eighth save. But it got interesting when Blake Trahan hit a 2-2 pitch over the left-field wall to cut the difference to 6-5.

The Wave got that key seventh run in the eighth when Garner reached on Smith’s throwing error to first base. Garrett Cannizaro’s fly ball to right moved him to third, and after a strikeout, Yandel hit a run-scoring single to left off ULL closer Matt Hicks.

Two walks and a balk by Gibaut put ULL in tying position in the eighth before the freshman right-hander induced a popup from Compton to end the inning. Then, in the ninth, Jace Conrad and Dex Kjerstad sandwiched singles around a fly-ball out and moved up on Dylan Butler’s grounder to first.

Gibaut, however, won a nine-pitch at-bat when Ryan Leonards went down swinging to end the game.

“That’s three freshmen that had great nights for us,” Jones said. “Yandel’s pinch hit stretched the lead, Carthon got us going, and Gibaut won those battles at the end. This was a much-needed win for us in a really tough place to play.”