Tulane rallies past Gators, 7-4

TALLAHASSEE — Seven proved to be the lucky number for Tulane as the Green Wave rallied for six runs in the seventh to defeat two-seed Florida 7-4 in NCAA Regional action Friday afternoon. The Gators (34-23) are one-game away from elimination, which will end their season. They tomorrow at 1 p.m. against the loser of Bucknell (29-22-2)-Florida State (48-10) in a game that can be seen on Sun Sports.

The mission in this game was to get beyond Tulane All-American Shooter Hunt (9-3, 2.45), who entered the game with a reputation that far proceeded him. Hunt is expected to be a top 20 selection in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft on June 5th.

And while that did indeed prove to be a difficult task, the bullpens proved to be the difference in this game. Tulane head coach Rick Jones called on relievers Nick Pepitone and Rob Segedin, who combined to limit the Gators to one hit and most importantly, no runs in 3.2 innings. Pepitone (4-1), the nephew of former New York Yankees/Chicago Cub star Joe Pepitone, picked up the win for his tremendous effort. Segedin recorded his fifth save of the season.

Florida countered with sophomore Billy Bullock, who had the worst outing of his Florida career. Bullock was rocked by the Green Wave. He failed to locate his pitches and seemingly left everything in Tulane wheel-house. Bullock allowed three hits and four earned runs, while throwing two wild pitches and issuing one walk in just one-third of an inning.

Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said in the post-game press conference that he would have gone with right-hander Josh Edmondson, but the senior recently twisted his ankle and was unavailable for the Gators. 

The first two hitters in the Florida line-up provided plenty of opportunities to get a good look at Hunt in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Avery Barnes worked Hunt for eight pitches before grounding out to shortstop Josh Prince. Matt den Dekker followed by forcing the right-hander to throw nine pitchers before grounding out to the bag at first base. Cole Figueroa walked after running the count to 3-1 then stole second base before clean-up hitter Brandon McArthur hit a ground ball in the hole to short. McArthur wasn’t quite able to beat out the throw on the ruptured ACL. A healthy McArthur would have easily beaten out the throw to first base. 

Florida starter Stephen Locke allowed a hit in every inning, but worked out of his biggest jam in top of the fourth. With two outs, the southpaw gave up a single to Sam Honeck that went through the right side. Drew Allain followed with a bloop single that dropped in for a base hit in shallow left field. Honeck was able to move over to third base on the play giving the Green Wave runners on the corners. However, designated hitter Andrew Rodgers hit a ground ball that bounced along the first base line that Rodgers ran into resulting in the final out of the inning, while trying to scurry down to first base.

Tulane nine hole hitter Josh Prince doubled to lead off the fifth inning. Scott Powell laid down a nice bunt that Locke had trouble fielding and finding a throw to McArthur at the bag. Locke plunked Anthony Scelfo with a pitch to load the bases. Clean-up hitter Seth Henry hit a ground ball to Josh Adams at third base. Adams stepped on the bag and fired to Jon Townsend at second for the double play as Prince scored on the play. Rob Segedin flew out to center field one pitch later to close out the inning, but Tulane had taken a 1-0 lead. 

Jared Dyer led off the top of the sixth with a double down the right field line off Locke. Honeck hit a ball to center field that den Dekker fielded and quickly fired on to Adams at third base, who applied the tag on Dyer as he slid into the bag. Allain then grounded out to shortstop Cole Figueroa for the final out of the inning.

In the bottom half of the sixth, Florida solved Hunt. Figueroa led off the inning with a single to right field. McArthur followed with a double to right-center that the Tulane outfielders had trouble finding the handle on, allowing Figueroa to round third and come home with the tying run. Adams drove the first pitch back to the mound and Hunt overthrew to first base for the error. The ball bounced off the wall and deep into foul territory allowing McArthur to score the go-ahead run as Adams wheeled into third base. Bryson Barber then hit a fly ball to short right field that wasn’t deep enough to allow Adams to score though as he was wisely held-up at third by assistant coach . Townsend picked him up with a bomb over the left field fence that bounced off the scoreboard for a two-run home run. Riley Cooper doubled to right field, but Teddy Foster struck out and Barnes flew out to center field to end the inning. Florida took a 4-1 lead in the game.

But, it was short lived.

The Green Wave exploded in the seventh with six singles that scored six runs. Pinch-hitter Bartow and Prince singled off Locke. O’Sullivan went to the pen for Bullock, who had the most difficult outing of his Florida career. The line told the whole story — three hits, four earned runs, and two wild pitches.

In one-third of an inning, the Green Wave had not only rallied, they had taken the lead.

Sophomore Tony Davis came on in relief and struck out the only batter that he faced to slow things down. O’Sullivan went back to the bullpen for right-hander Kyle Mullaney, who allowed one a run scoring single before striking out Bartow, who began the inning for the third out. Tulane took a 7-4 lead. 

Florida managed just one base runner in each of the final two innings, but they weren’t able to move them around to close the gap.

Tulane (38-20-1) will play the winner of the Bucknell/Florida State game at 7pm on Saturday night. The Gators will throw Patrick Keating (8-1, 3.47) in tomorrow’s contest.

NOTES: If you look at the left side of the “M” in the letters of the “Dick Howser Stadium” script on the scoreboard, you’ll notice a baseball sized hole with the ball stuck into it. That gift was courtesy of Florida reserve catcher Brett Bentley who made the in-kind donation during Florida’s batting practice.

Tulane head coach Rick Jones was receptive of the assistance delivered by Florida State fans at the Tallahassee Regional. The Seminoles faithful were pretty boisterous in their support of the Green Wave. Jones said that far too-often the Green Wave have been assigned a seeding in Baton Rouge, where the LSU fans lend a hand to the Tulane opponents.