by Steve Parkhurst
Three notable streaks were on the line as the Houston Cougars traveled to New Orleans for a four-game American Athletic Conference (AAC) set this weekend with the Tulane Green Wave.
Tulane as a team entered play with a ten-game winning streak. Tulane leadoff hitter Collin Burns entered with a seventeen-game hitting streak and catcher Bennett Lee entered with a sixteen-game hitting streak.
There was also a great pitching matchup to open the weekend between Tulane's Braden Olthoff and Houston's Robert Gasser, two premiere pitchers not only in the AAC, but in all of college baseball.
Robert Gasser retired Collin Burns to open the bottom of the first before three straight singles plated the first run of the game, and Tulane led 1-0.
Houston did not get its first hit off Olthoff until the fourth inning, the first of only five hits in the game. Meanwhile, Gasser was cruising as well, striking out eight as he went six complete innings and left trailing 1-0.
Tulane added two runs in the seventh off Houston relief pitching, including the final run on a bases loaded walk that made it 3-0. While Tulane's offense was adding some runs and taking walks in that lengthy seventh inning, Olthoff was in the Tulane bullpen throwing and staying warm.
After a scoreless eighth for Olthoff, Keagan Gillies closed out the Cougars in the ninth for the 3-0 five-hit, shutout win, and his second save. Olthoff had a season-high twelve strike outs as he improved his record this year to 5-1. Gasser and the Houston bullpen were able to end Burns’s hitting streak at seventeen games.
Jack Aldrich took the mound for Tulane in the Friday nightcap and Houston struck first when they scored a run in the top of first on a Ryan Hernandez bloop single into right that scored Brad Burckel from second. The Cougars added a run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Luke Almendarez to score Will Pendergrass and give the Cougars a 2-0 advantage.
In the third, Cougars outfielder Tyler Bielamowicz lined a one-out triple to right-center, and he was brought home moments later on a Ryan Hernandez single into center to put the Cougars in front 3-0.
Tulane plated a run in the third off Houston starter Jaycob Deese to get back in the game.
Aldrich left the game with one out in the sixth and two Cougars on base. Houston added a run moments later on a bizarre play at the plate on a wild pitch allowing Dylan Post to score and extend the Cougars lead to 4-1. Post broke for home on a wild pitch, but the pitch ricocheted quickly back to Tulane catcher Haydan Hastings and he recovered the ball and raced back to the plate. Post went right at Hastings, but he snuck his left leg around the catcher and managed to touch home plate before he was tagged.
The Green Wave got a two-run home run in the sixth to get to within one at 4-3. Collin Burns tied the contest at four in the seventh with a one-out home run to straight-away center field.
Deese went 6 1/3 innings before exiting in favor of reliever Layne Looney, and the game got away from the Cougars at that point. A few pitches later, Bennet Lee hit a liner down the first base line to drive in Tulane's go-ahead run at 5-4. For Lee, the hit was part of a 2-for-5 evening that extended his hitting streak to eighteen games.
Tulane put up six in the eighth while they scored ten unanswered runs and led 11-4.
Tulane’s David Bates, who took the mound in the eighth, also handled the ninth to close out the contest and secure the 11-4 victory for the Green Wave while extending their win streak to twelve games.
Hours after the final out of the Friday game, it was announced that Sunday's game was being rescheduled because of the high likelihood of rain, this meant the two teams would play a doubleheader on Saturday to close out their weekend series.
Tulane starter Donovan Benoit got things started by striking out the side in the first inning to open Saturday's first game. Then Tulane's offense wasted no time getting on the board, scoring one in the first.
A comedy of bizarre defensive miscues, plus a single, loaded the bases with no outs for the Cougars to start the third. Ryan Hernandez doubled to left-center to drive in two runs. Houston scored seven runs in the third, eventually chasing Benoit after only 2 2/3 innings pitched.
The Green Wave added a run in their half of the third to close the gap to 7-2, aided by a Bennett Lee (3-for-5) single, one of three hits for Lee as his hitting streak reached nineteen games. Then Tulane's Luis Aviles homered in the fourth to again cut into the deficit making it 7-3.
Ben Sears went 5 2/3 innings and reliever Derrick Cherry took the mound to get the final out of the sixth. Cherry allowed Tulane to add a run in the seventh to get the deficit down to three at 7-4.
Tulane's Trent Johnson threw six strong innings after relieving Benoit in the third, allowing only four hits and keeping Houston from adding to the lead, Johnson left the mound to a standing ovation with two outs in the ninth. Cherry let Tulane load the bases in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, but he caught Aviles looking to end the game. Houston's 7-4 win ended the Tulane twelve-game winning streak.
Tyler Hoffman took the ball for Tulane in the weekend finale. He put the Cougars down in order in the opening frame, striking out the last two batters.
The Tulane offense jumped out in front with a big second inning, plating three runs with the help of sloppy Houston defense. Ethan Groff (3) added a two-run home run in the third for a 5-0 Green Wave lead.
Trailing 6-0 in the sixth, the Cougars loaded the bases with one out and Tulane went to the bullpen as a light rain fell on New Orleans. A walk plated Houston's first run, their only run of the inning.
A slightly heavier rain was falling in the seventh as Houston added three runs, highlighted by a Ryan Hernandez (2-for-4) single to right-center scoring runners from second and third and getting Houston to within two at 6-4. Two batters reached base for Houston and Tulane went to the bullpen again to end the threat and preserve the two-run lead.
Bennett Lee, 0-for-3 at the time, got one last chance in the eighth to extend his hitting streak, but he bounced out weakly to the pitcher as the streak came to an end for the freshman at nineteen games.
Keagan Gillies took the mound for the second time in as many days and closed out the Cougars in the ninth, though not before a solo home run by Tyler Bielamowicz (6) to get Houston to within one. Houston got two more runners on base on two consecutive singles, but Gillies countered with two consecutive strikes outs to end the game and give Tulane the series win. For Gillies it was his third save of the season and his second of the weekend.
Two trifectas played out this weekend at Turchin Stadium in New Orleans: Houston ended all three of the streaks that Tulane and its players entered the series with, but Tulane took the bigger prize winning three of the four games. Tulane improves overall to 24-14 and 13-2 in the AAC, while Houston leaves town 16-23 overall and 4-12 in the AAC.