CHAMPS: Tulane clinches American Athletic Conference regular-season title _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ-- A joyous Tulane third baseman Hunter Hope (16) comes into the dugout after hitting an in the park home run against University of New Orleans as they play at Turchin Stadium at Tulane in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, May 10, 2016. He is flanked by Tulane infielder Matt Braud (43) and Tulane infielder Shea Pierce (9).

HOUSTON — Tulane withstood a 3½-hour rain delay and then a final charge from the Houston Cougars Saturday evening at Schroeder Park.

The Green Wave went on to take a 4-3 win over the Cougars to claim the American Athletic Conference regular-season title and earn the No. 1 seed for the conference postseason tournament.

The tournament begins Tuesday at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. The Green Wave (37-17, 15-7) face No. 8 UCF at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The regular-season title is Tulane’s first since 2005 and its first AAC crown in any sport. Tulane finished percentage points ahead of second-place East Carolina, which was 15-8-1.

“I just felt like we battled so much adversity all weekend,” second-year coach David Pierce said. “We are just thankful for our coaches, our support staff, the previous staff that did such a good on helping us on these recruits. A lot of people played a part in this. I’m just proud of our kids, and we are just looking forward to the postseason.”

Facing a must-win situation Saturday, Tulane opened the game with a three-run first inning. Hunter Williams slammed a two-run home run to left fieild, and Jeremy Montalbano followed with a solo shot, also to left.

Houston (33-22, 11-12) fought back to tie the score with single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. In the seventh, Jake Willsey’s one-out home run put the Wave back on top.

Tulane’s J.P. France retired the final nine 10 Houston batters in order to preserve the win. France (6-2) went four innings in relief of Alex Massey, and gave up one run on two hits.

The AAC tournament will be played in a double-elimination format through the semifinal round. The championship final is a winner-take-all matchup Sunday to determine The American’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

Tuesday’s tournament-opening doubleheader will be televised by CBS Sports Network.

Sunday’s final will be televised at 11 a.m. on ESPNews.