OXFORD, Miss. – Freshman starting pitcher Ross Massey gave Tulane exactly what it needed in an elimination game against Utah on Sunday afternoon, and Jeremy Montalbano and Hunter Hope took care of the rest.
Massey (10-3) threw seven shutout innings before giving up a solo home run in the eighth. Montalbano broke a scoreless tie with hit a two-run homer in the fourth, and Hope followed in the same frame with a blast into the left field stands as the Green Wave eliminated the Utes 4-1 at Swayze Field.
Stalwarts Stephen Alemais and Hunter Williams added a pair of hits on a comfortable day for the Green Wave (41-20) which earned a rematch with Boston College (33-20) at 5:04 p.m. If the Wave wins that one, the two teams will meet for the regional title at 7 p.m. on Monday night.
“I felt good,” Massey said. “I just went out there and tried to give my team a chance to win. Early in the game I was getting behind in the count, so I just wanted to attack the strike zone. When your teammates hit two home runs like that, it’s easy to throw.”
Massey, the American Athletic Conference leader in wins during the regular season, threw only two-thirds of an inning at the league tournament to rest a tired arm after he got hit hard late in the season.
Refreshed, he kept Utah (26-29) off balance all day, allowing only two leadoff runners to reach base as the Utes reached second base in only two innings. The only time he was in any trouble, he induced an easy grounder to Alemais at short with the bases loaded in in the fourth.
“He was just making in-out fastballs and off-speed pitches,” said shortstop Cody Scaggari, who had two of Utah’s five hits, including the shutout-breaking home run. “He was doing a really good job. His ball had movement today and he kept us off balance.”
Tulane should be at full strength against Boston College. Centerfielder Grant Witherspoon will return from a one-game suspension after being ejected against Ole Miss on Saturday, and right fielder Lex Kaplan passed a concussion protocol after a nasty collision with Grant Brown on a crazy play in the eighth inning against Utah.
Associate head coach Sean Allen said Kaplan suffered a cut under an eye and Brown a cut on his ear. They collided diving for a sinking fly ball, and although Brown’s glove came off, the ball stayed in it.
“It was a heck of a catch,” associate head coach Sean Allen said. “It was unbelievable they actually held on to it. When it comes down to taking pain, they are both probably the toughest guys we have on the team.”
Brown, who started against Utah because the Utes had a lefty pitcher, will be on the bench against Boston College, but Allen said Brown also passed the concussion protocol.
Sam Bjorngjeld pitched a perfect ninth inning to finish off Utah and earn his first save of the season, getting easy grounders to second and third before a foul-out to Wiliams.
J.P. France (6-3, 3.22 ERA) will oppose Boston College’s Jacob Stevens (3-3, 2.04) as the Wave tries to set up a winner-takes-all game.