NEW ORLEANS – Sam Bjorngjeld allowed one run over 6.0 innings and was backed by a seven-run third inning as Tulane baseball defeated No. 25 UConn, 8-3, Thursday evening in its American Athletic Conference series opener at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
Hunter Williams hit a two-run single and Jake Willsey hit a three-run double in the third inning to propel the Green Wave (16-18, 5-2 American) into the lead. The Wave added a run in the fifth on Hunter Hope’s monster home run to left field. The Huskies (19-12, 6-1 American) took the early lead with a run in the second inning, and then added two runs in the eighth.
Bjorngjeld (3-2) was outstanding in the longest outing of his career. Making his second start, he scattered eight hits and allowed one run with three strikeouts over 6.0 innings. His only previous career start was a two-inning outing at Nicholls State on March 15, and his longest outing prior to Thursday was 5.1 innings at Louisiana-Lafayette on March 22.
“When you have a guy that can take the ball like that and insert himself into a new role, and throw six solid innings, that’s exactly where it starts,” Tulane head coach Travis Jewett said. “His ability to keep them off the scoreboard allowed us to stay close early against a very quality left-handed pitcher. We were able to get some good swings, and then had a fortunate ball that they lost in the twilight, and you take those advantages. We were in control of the strike zone, and coupled some hits and some walks, and it was a combination of a lot of good things that let us get ahead, and Sam settled in a little bit.”
UConn took the early lead on an RBI single by Keith Krueger in the second inning. The Huskies threatened to score another run on a base hit up the middle with runners at first and second, but Grant Brown fielded the ball in center and threw to Willsey at second base to catch Krueger overrunning the bag for the third out.
After getting just one hit in each of the first two innings, the Tulane bats came alive in the third. Paul Gozzo bookended the inning with singles, including an RBI hit through the left side to score the seventh run. Grant Witherspoon reached on a fielder’s choice and Lex Kaplan hit his second double of the game, this one down the right field line. Williams then laced a two-run base hit to center, giving the Green Wave a 2-1 lead.
The real damage came with two outs, however, as Hope and Kody Hoese walked to load the bases, and Williams scored when Grant Brown’s grounder to third was misplayed. Willsey then hit a high pop up that floated into shallow left center, and which was lost in the fading daylight of the sky, and landed for a double, scoring all three runners to make the score 6-1. Batting for the second time in the frame, Gozzo placed a single through the hole between second and third to score Willsey and make it 7-1.
Hope’s seventh home run of the season – and second in as many games – seemed to continue rising as it left the ballpark, landing well beyond the left field wall, to extend the lead to 8-1 in the fifth.
UConn cut the lead to 8-3 in the top of the eighth with a walk and a pair of doubles, including a two-out two-run double to right center by Troy Stefanski.
Tim Cate (3-2) allowed three earned runs over five innings and took the loss for UConn. Freshmen Burton Schnake and Robert Price closed it out for the Wave, combining for the final four outs of the game in relief. Chase Solesky entered to begin the seventh inning, and pitched 1.2 frames.
The second game of the series is at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are available by calling 504-861-WAVE, or in person at the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office in the James W. Wilson Center. The game can be heard on 88.3 FM WRBH and the Tune In Radio app, and live stats and live video will be available on www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
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Tulane 8, UConn 3 (Apr 13, 2017 at New Orleans, La.)
UConn…………… 010 000 020 – 3 10 1 (19-12, 6-1)
Tulane………….. 007 010 00X – 8 9 0 (16-18, 5-2)
Pitchers: UConn – Cate, Tim; Holmes, Trevor(6); Wallace, Jacob(7); Zapata, Andrew(8) and
Susi, Zac. Tulane – BJORNGJELD, Sam; SOLESKY, Chase(7); SCHNAKE, Burton(8); PRICE, Robert(9)
and GOZZO, Paul.
Win-BJORNGJELD, Sam(3-2) Loss-Cate, Tim(3-2) T-2:50 A-1942
HR TLN – HOPE, Hunter (7).
Weather: 79 Ptly Cloudy, Wind E @ 8 mph