Tulane sports information contributed to this story.
Tulane starter Kaleb Roper allowed just one run through 6.1 innings, while Grant Mathews finished a triple short of the cycle in helping power the offense in an eventual 9-2 win over the USF Bulls in the series opener Friday night at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
Leading by only two runs for nearly a third of the game, the Green Wave (23-11, 5-1 The American) exploded for six runs over the course of two late innings to pull away from the Bulls (15-17, 2-8) and squash any thoughts of a comeback late thanks to patience at the plate by the squad.
“We’re putting the balls in play and for us if you touch first base then you have an opportunity to score runs,” head coach Travis Jewett said. “We like way we’re swinging the bats right now, and when you do what Grant did with driving in runs with two outs it’s just a bonus.”
All four of Mathews’ RBI came with two outs on the board, as his fifth home run of the season helped give Tulane a three-run lead after three innings played. He produced three of Tulane’s eight hits on the night, as Kody Hoese provided two more, which also included pushing his nation-leading home run total to 18.
Roper (5-2) matched his win total for the entire 2018 season on Friday, scattering four hits with eight strikeouts to earn the victory, helping keep the Bulls bats off kilter for much of the night. He was aided by Justin Campbell (1), earning his first career save as he came on in a pinch late and went on to pitch the final 2.2 innings allowing just a single run on a hit with two strikeouts and a walk.
Baron Stuart (1-2) suffered the loss for USF as he allowed all three early Tulane runs on four hits in the start. The Bulls used three pitchers who combined to walk nine Green Wave batters in the contest, while also getting stung defensively to the tune of two errors.
After USF opened the game with the bases loaded, but scoring no runs, Tulane took to the bottom of the first as Hoese singled through the left side with an out on the board to reach first. A grounder to third allowed him to move to second, and Luke Glancy brought him in with a double off the wall in right center to put Tulane on top 1-0.
With two outs in the third, Frankie Niemann walked to keep the inning alive and that proved costly as Mathews hit a no-doubter over the fence in right field to make it a 3-0 Green Wave lead.
A solo home run for USF ended a streak of eight in a row retired in the top of the fourth to make it a 3-1 game, as the Bulls threated again in the top of the seventh with two singles on opposite ends of an out put two on and ended Roper’s day. Campbell entered and immediately got a strikeout, as the next batter grounded out to Hoese at third to end the inning.
Hoese wasted little time in giving the pitchers some insurance, leading off with a towering home run to left to make it 4-1. After a pop up, Glancy drew a walk to reach as he would have to chew up some yards as Niemann one-hopped a double off the wall and Glancy slid home under the tag to push the lead to 5-1.
Mathews would double down the left field line as he hit a sky-high ball between fielders, resulting in putting runners at second and third. Jonathon Artigues flew out to right and plated Niemann to make it 6-1 Tulane.
A throwing error from short allowed Trevor Jensen to reach first in the eighth, moving to second after the ball skidded to the wall down the right field line. Walks to Hoese and Hudson Haskin loaded the bases, as USF went to the bullpen for the second time.
After a strikeout, Niemann drew a walk to push the Tulane lead to 7-1, as Mathews ripped a single through the left side to plate Hoese and Haskin to make it an eight-run game at 9-1.
USF scratched across another run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly, but USF would not get much else past Campbell or Tulane as the Green Wave clinched the win on a strikeout.
Game two of the series is set for a 2 p.m. first pitch Saturday at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium. The team will honor the 1979 Metro Tournament Champion squad prior to the start of the contest against USF.