NEW ORLEANS — Unable to put together big games at the plate this year, the Tulane baseball team settled for two big innings Saturday to even its series against Houston.
The Green Wave erupted for five hits and scored four runs in the fourth — its most for any inning in Conference USA play — and added two runs on four consecutive hits in the eighth to beat the Cougars 6-3 at Turchin Stadium.
All the hits in the fourth were hard, too. Nick DiMaggio led off with a solid single. With two outs, Sean Potkay lofted a run-scoring double that that hit the chalk down the left-field line. Andrew Garner, Brennan Middleton and Bowen Woodson followed with line-drive RBI singles, giving Tulane a 4-0 lead.
After Houston (29-18, 8-9 Conference USA) pulled within 4-3 in the top of the eighth, Garner doubled and Middleton, Woodson and Cameron Burns singled in consecutive at-bats to make it 6-3. The Cougars went down in order in the ninth.
It was the first time since March 26 that Tulane (24-23, 8-9 C-USA) scored six runs at home.
“Going into the year, we knew we had this ability to hit,” Woodson said. “Our pitching has been outstanding, and our defense has been a lot better lately, so if we hit like this for the rest of the year, there’s no reason we can’t win the conference tournament and keep going.”
It was a satisfying day in almost every respect for the Green Wave. Houston catcher Caleb Barker, the new public enemy No. 1 at Turchin Stadium after the Cougars’ 4-3 win on Friday night, grounded into two inning-ending double plays and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth.
Barker, booed before every at-bat, was ejected from Friday night’s game for intentionally dropping the ball on Tulane’s Richard Carthon after tagging him out at the plate for the final out of the third inning. Carthon took steps toward Barker, and both dugouts emptied as players jawed at each other.
Tulane coach Rick Jones assumed Barker would serve an automatic suspension Saturday under NCAA rules, but he was in the lineup because the rule applies only to ejections for actions against an umpire, not a player.
“I made sure that he was going to get his outs today,” Tulane starting pitcher Alex Byo said. “If he’s not going to sit out a game for doing what he did last night, then he basically sat out today by getting five or six outs on his own.”
Byo was not alone in that sentiment.
“We have our teammates’ backs,” said Garner, who scored two runs as the designated hitter and earned his fifth save by getting the final five outs. “We really wanted this game. It’s not every day that something like that happens.”
Houston closed the deficit to 4-3 with four straight one-out singles in the eighth. The latter three came off closer Ian Gibaut, but Garner came in to get a fly to left and a soft liner to Woodson at second base to strand the tying run at second.
The normally hard-luck Byo (3-4, 2.85 ERA) picked up his first win since March 16 against Texas-San Antonio, allowing two runs in 7.1 innings. He had four consecutive no-decisions since losing at Memphis on March 23.
“I was thinking, here comes another one,” he said. “It was huge to tack on another couple of runs in the eighth inning. It was a big win, and we’ve got an even bigger one tomorrow.”
Houston’s Austin Pruitt (7-5) gave up six runs in 7.1 innings and lost his third outing in a row.