CLEARWATER, Fla. — Roughly 72 hours after opening the American Athletic Conference tournament with an inspiring performance, Tulane's baseball season ended Friday night.
Courtesy of two uninspiring ones.
The league's most potent offense couldn't muster quite enough of it when it mattered most Friday, falling to sixth-seeded UCF, 6-2, at Spectrum Field.
Tulane finishes 32-26, its RPI (96 as of Thursday) hardly meriting an NCAA tournament at-large berth. The Green Wave dropped 16 of their final 23 games.
Their only hope of making the postseason was winning this eight-team, double-elimination event, which they appeared in solid position to do after Kaleb Roper's 136-pitch complete game in Tuesday evening's 5-2 win against the Knights.
But the Green Wave left 13 base runners stranded in Thursday's 8-4 loss to Cincinnati. On Friday, UCF senior right-hander Jordan Spicer mostly neutralized Tulane batters for 116 pitches to record his first career complete game.
"When you get into a situation like that, I think you've just got to give all the credit to him," Green Wave coach Travis Jewett said as his players silently packed their gear in the dugout behind him.
"He kind of did the same thing to us a few weeks ago at home (working six strong innings in a 5-2 Knights win May 5), so I think we kind of ignited the back side of his senior year."
When Spicer — eight hits, six strikeouts, one walk — did encounter trouble Friday, the Green Wave helped him escape it.
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the fifth, Tulane had two out and runners at first and second for No. 3 batter Kody Hoese. The AAC Player of the Year laced a double to the gap in right center field that scored Sal Gozzo.
But senior Trevor Jensen rounded third hard as the throw entered from the outfield, and got caught in a rundown between third and home for the final out.
"It certainly was a hustle play," Jewett said. "He was running hard and coach (Eddie) Smith brought him down the line. I think he just got caught up about whether he wanted to do it or not; a little bit indecisive there."
UCF got the run back in the bottom of the inning on leadoff batter Matthew Mika's solo home run to left off Green Wave starter Chase Solesky (6-4).
Tulane's final threat came in the eighth, when Gozzo and Jensen opened the inning with consecutive singles. Spicer then struck out Hoese and, after surrendering an RBI-single to Hudson Haskin, forced Grant Mathews to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
The run trimmed the Green Wave's deficit to 4-2, but UCF added two more — including third baseman Anthony George's solo blast — with two out in the bottom of the inning.
"There's only gonna be one team that's gonna finish the season with a win," Jewett said. "It's a tough feeling right now. Their (spirits) are down a little bit obviously because this is the last time this team will be together, but a lot of credit goes to (UCF)."