ECU rallies past Tulane in American Athletic Conference Tournament winner’s bracket for 6-5 win

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CLEARWATER, Fla. – Junior center fielder Grant Witherspoon hit two two-run home runs to pace Tulane, but the Green Wave fell to ECU, 6-5, in the winners bracket game of the 2018 American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship Wednesday afternoon at Robin Roberts Field.

Witherspoon homered to center field in the third inning and to right field in the seventh, giving the eighth-seeded Green Wave (25-32) a 4-1 lead. The fourth-seeded Pirates (41-15), however, scored five runs in the top of the eighth to move ahead, 6-4. Tulane recouped a run in the bottom half when sophomore shortstop Sal Gozzo led off with a double and scored on a wild pitch.

Sophomore second baseman Jonathon Artigues, who went 2-for-4 in the game, scored on both of Witherspoon’s home runs. He drew a one-out walk in the third inning and led off the seventh with a single ahead of the homers.

Junior Kaleb Roper gave Tulane a tremendous start, limiting ECU to just one unearned run on two hits and racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts through seven innings. He pitched into the eighth, finishing 7.2 frames, and absorbed the loss to fall to 5-5.

“Roper’s start was unbelievable. It was exactly what we needed,” Tulane head coach Travis Jewett said. “He got into a little bit of trouble in the eighth, then made a pitch with the bases loaded and we turn a double play. We’re still up 4-2 with two outs, and then they just string a bunch of at bats together and take the lead. We fought back, but if you look back at the difference in the game, we had the bases loaded with one out and didn’t score and then had a runner at third with one out and didn’t score.”

In the eighth inning, ECU loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a single before a 4-6-3 double play allowed a run to score. Four straight singles and a wild pitch, however, plated four more runs as the Pirates moved ahead, 6-4. Reliever Evan Voliva (2-0) pitched 0.2 relief innings to take the win and Jake Agnos pitched the final two innings to earn the save.

Artigues reached on an error in the fifth inning as the Wave loaded the bases with one out, but a strikeout and groundout prevented any runs from scoring. Junior first baseman Trevor Jensen followed Witherspoon’s seventh-inning homer with a single and advanced to third with one out, but a groundout, hit batter and strikeout ended the inning.

Witherspoon recorded his second multi-home run game of the year to run his total to 12 homers on the season. He turned in the fourth two-homer game in the tournament’s five-year history and was the first to do it since Lex Kaplan in 2015.

Tulane will play an elimination game against Houston at 8 a.m. CT Thursday. The winner is scheduled to turnaround and face ECU at 11:30 a.m. CT, but all dates and times are weather permitting and subject to change. The games will be broadcast on the American Digital Network Plus, via Facebook Live, and can be heard on 88.3 FM WRBH and TuneIn Radio. For full tournament information, including bracket, schedule, results and links to live video and live stats, visit the championship central page.

Follow Green Wave Baseball on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (TulaneBaseball). Follow Tulane Athletics on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

ECU 6, Tulane 5 (May 23, 2018 at Clearwater, Fla.)
ECU…………….. 000 010 050 – 6 8 1 (41-15)
Tulane………….. 002 000 210 – 5 7 1 (25-32)
Pitchers: ECU – BURLESON, Alec; BENTON, Trey(5); ROSS, Ryan(6); BARNES, Zach(7);
VOLIVA, Evan(7); AGNOS, Jake(8) and WASHER, Jake. Tulane – ROPER, Kaleb; WHITE, Ben(8);
MASSEY, Ross(9) and OWEN, Acy.
Win-VOLIVA, Evan(2-0) Save-AGNOS, Jake(1) Loss-ROPER, Kaleb(5-5) T-3:14 A-0
HR TLN – WITHERSPOON, Grant 2 (12).
Weather: 85 Fair, Wind SE @ 7 mph
ROSS, R. faced 2 batters in the 7th.

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