NEW ORLEANS — There were a few reversals of fortune Friday night at Tulane’s Turchin Stadium.
Not only did the Green Wave (8-7) get back on a winning track, earning a 3-2 victory over High Point in the series opener against the Panthers (6-8), it came on the strength of a plate umpire overruling the first-base umpire.
With the score tied at 2 and no one on base in the sixth, Tulane’s Andrew Garner appeared to end the inning on a groundout to shortstop, following a diving grab by Panthers first baseman Ryan Retz. It elicited a chorus of jeers from the surrounding Green Wave fans who claimed Retz’s feet were off of the bag, peppering first-base umpire Eddie Newsome with vocal disgust as Tulane’s defense took the field to start the seventh inning.
The questionable call prompted Wave coach Rick Jones to trot onto the field and inquire about the decision, propelling plate umpire Ray Miller to inject his opinion into the matter. After a brief discussion among the umpires, Tulane was told to leave the field and resume the sixth inning, awarding Garner with a single.
“I said, ‘What did you see? Are you sure he was on the bag?’” Jones said. “I’d be less than honest if I told you that I had ever seen that before. The important thing is to get the call right, and they got the call right.”
The bizarre situation not only provided a head-scratching moment, but also provided Tulane’s offense with a jolt of momentum. Blake Crohan capitalized on the second chance by promptly singling to right field, before Garrett Cannizaro walked to load the bases.
Freshman Tim Yandel then grounded another critical ball to the shortstop, but beat this throw without a debate, scoring Garner and lifting the Green Wave to its first lead of the game.
“(High Point) was kind of disappointed that they were out there, I guess,” Cannizaro said. “We just relaxed and put the barrel on the ball. It was a crazy play that happened to swing our way.”
From there, Tulane relied on ace pitcher Tony Rizzotti, who improved his record to 2-1, allowing just two runs and five hits over eight innings, striking out four and walking one. Still, his season ERA actually grew to 1.20 because a rocky first inning.
In one swing, Rizzotti’s earned runs allowed this season doubled. Retz smacked a two-run double off the wall in left-center, following up on consecutive singles by Josh Spano and Brett Gemmel at the onset of Rizzotti’s only shaky inning thus far in a Tulane uniform.
It didn’t take long for Tulane to match the Panthers’ output, though. Sean Potkay was hit by a pitch, then Garner singled to set up Cannizarro’s two-run single through the middle, providing a rarely seen glimpse of timely hitting from the scuffling Green Wave offense which entered the night hitting just .220 with runners in scoring position.
By then, Rizzotti had settled in and swiftly carried Tulane through eight innings, before handing it over to closer Ian Gibaut. The freshman recorded his second save by pitching around a pair of singles and registering a strikeout to complete a strange night at Turchin.
“It didn’t surprise me, but it didn’t make me feel good, I can tell you that,” Jones said of Rizzotti’s start. “Well it did (surprise me), because Tony has been so dominant. They got good swings off early. I don’t know if we were tipping something off or what, but they were on some balls that maybe they shouldn’t have been on. We made some adjustments quickly on that, and then Tony got in his rhythm.”