NEW ORLEANS — If there’s one thing Tulane can rely on this season, it’s Tony Rizzotti.
And on Friday night, the Green Wave’s ace pitcher carried his team the way someone at the top of the rotation should, tossing 8.2 innings and allowing eight hits. But because he’s pitching behind Tulane’s punchless offense, the margin for error was still too slim for it to result in a victory.
Instead, Rizzotti could only watch as East Carolina took the Conference USA baseball series opener, winning 3-2 in the 13th inning, more than 31/2 hours after his first pitch.
East Carolina starter Jeff Hoffman dazzled on the other side, throwing 9.2 innings and allowing three hits to lead the Pirates (15-18, 2-5) most of the way to a 3-2 extra-innings victory.
Still, Hoffman couldn’t find his way to the winner’s circle. After eight dominant innings, in which he allowed just a single hit, Tulane’s offense and ECU’s defense came together just in time to improbably send the game into extra innings and saddle Hoffman with a no-decision.
After Brennan Middleton singled to open the ninth, Tulane (17-19, 4-6) benefited from an error by ECU first baseman Chase McDonald before Sean Potkay doubled down the right-field line to pull the score to 2-1. Garrett Cannizaro’s ground ball to shortstop went deep enough to allow Potkay to score, sending the game into extra innings.
However, Tulane’s offense failed to capitalize on any momentum, failing to produce a hit or a walk in the four additional innings as Pirates reliever Drew Reynolds retired all but one Tulane batter (who reached via error).
Meanwhile East Carolina finally broke through in the 13th inning by squeezing out a run on Bryan Bass’ sacrifice fly, finally taking advantage of a three-hit inning. It was relief for the Pirates, who struggled to come up with hits in critical situations all night.
ECU slapped 14 hits against Green Wave pitchers, but stranded 15 runners — a direct opposite of the Green Wave, which only left six runners on base all game and only put four runners to the bases in the first eight innings.
The loss was Tulane’s third consecutive in Conference USA play. It will now have to win the next two against last-place East Carolina to avoid losing its third consecutive C-USA series.
The Green Wave will attempt to knot the series at 2 p.m. Saturday by sending Alex Byo to the mound.
A second game could possibly follow Saturday because the teams have concerns about the Sunay morning weather forecast in New Orleans.
Tulane said it expects to make a decision on the potential doubleheader Saturday afternoon, possibly between games.