NEW ORLEANS — Garrett Cannizaro watched too many opportunities pass by Tulane team this season.
In a baseball season marred by lackluster hitting and late-game struggles, the senior third baseman momentarily lifted the frustration, ripping a game-winning single into left field to clinch a 5-4 victory over East Carolina on Saturday afternoon at Turchin Stadium.
Less than 24 hours removed from a dramatic 13-inning defeat in the series opener, Tulane (18-19, 5-6 Conference USA) bounced back to even the series in an equally compelling 12-inning affair on Saturday.
It was the fist time Tulane played in back-to-back extra-inning games since it split a pair against Memphis on April 25 and 26 in 2009.
“Extra-inning games are tough, and especially when you have two in a row,” Cannizaro said. “It’s huge to bounce back and get a win in 12 innings like we did today. We didn’t panic. We did the little things we have been working on.”
While the games on Friday and Satuday unfolded similarly, Tulane’s statistics were far better in the second game, collecting nine hits (six more than Friday night) and not committing an error. The Greenies also finished with a much-needed victory, snapping a three-game losing streak in conference play and giving themselves a chance to win its first series in three weeks.
The series against East Carolina (16-19, 2-6) concludes at 11 a.m. Sunday.
What remained consistent between the first two games was the Green Wave’s stellar pitching staff, which has compiled an 3.40 ERA this season despite Tulane’s losing record. A trio of hurlers — starter Alex Byo and relievers Daniel Rankin and Kyle McKenzie — combined to allow just nine hits over 12 innings and stranded 11 ECU base runners.
McKenzie’s performance was particularly critical to Tulane’s success, as the former starter wiggled out of a jam in the eighth, striking out Bryan Bass with runners on the corners to maintain a 4-4 tie which lasted into extra innings.
McKenzie then baffled the Pirates for the final four innings, allowing just three base runners.
“I was feeling good today and was throwing the ball over and trying to get quick outs in case the game went longer,” McKenzie said. “I wanted to stretch myself out so we could save the rest of the bullpen for (Sunday).”
The Pirates did their part to aid the scuffling Green Wave offense, with three errors, a wild pitch and a damaging passed ball in the 12th. The passed ball allowed Tulane’s Brandon Boudreaux to advance to third base with one out, setting up Cannizaro’s game-winner.
Now, Tulane will look to capitalize on the stirring finish, sending senior left-hander David Napoli to the mound with a chance to climb into fifth place in the Conference USA standings.
“Either game of this series could’ve gone the other way,” Tulane coach Rick Jones said. “And when you’re in a close game like this at home, and with an opportunity to end it at home like we had ... we were fortunate today to get it done.”