CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Joe DeRoche-Duffin hit a two-run home run to cap a five-run eighth inning and erase a four-run deficit for the UConn baseball team (35-24) in a 7-6 victory over Tulane (34-23) on Friday afternoon at Bright House Field. The victory keeps the Huskies alive at the 2015 American Championship and marks their second-straight triumph in a win-or-go-home scenario at the double-elimination style tournament.
DeRoche-Duffin (Santa Ana, Calif.) sent his 11th home run of the season and second in as many days over the left field wall after Vinny Siena (Woodbridge, Conn.) drove in two with a triple and Bobby Melley (Barnstable, Mass.) knocked in a run with an RBI double in the wild eighth inning. The Huskies led 2-0 after an inning, but the Green Wave tied it in the bottom of the second before going ahead 6-2 with a three-run seventh
UConn got multi-hit efforts from DeRoche-Duffin, Melley and Eric Yavarone (North Haven, Conn.) in the victory, with Melley and Siena both scoring twice. Max McDowell (North Huntingdon, Pa.) and Willy Yahn (Sharon, Conn.) each drove in runs and Jon Testani (Mornoe, Conn.) singled and scored in the eighth inning.
Jordan Tabakman (Pompton Plains, N.J.) started for UConn and lasted 5.2 innings, as the redshirt senior allowed three runs on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts. Alex Massey took the ball for Tulane and also tossed 5.2 frames, giving up two runs on five hits with seven walks and five strikeouts.
UConn took an early advantage, loading the bases before pushing across two runs in the bottom of the first. McDowell got the scoring started by drawing a bases-loaded walk, before Yahn cracked a sacrifice fly to left field that gave the Huskies a 2-0 lead.
The Green Wave struck back to even the contest in the next half inning, putting two on the board in the top of the second with an RBI double from Hunter Hope and a run-scoring ground out. Tulane took its first lead in the top of the fourth with another RBI double from Hope to go ahead 3-2.
Tabakman exited with a runner on and two away in the top of the sixth, as Nico Darras (Laguna Beach, Calif.) came on for a big strikeout to stand one in scoring position and keep it a one-run game. The Huskies attempted a rally and loaded the bases in the home half of the sixth, but Tulane closer Ian Gibaut came on and induced a ground out to keep the Green Wave ahead.
After the Huskies were unable to cash in, Tulane stretched its lead to 5-2 with three straight doubles to open the seventh inning. UConn went to Patrick Ruotolo (Peabody, Mass.) with no outs in the frame and the Husky closer limited the Green Wave to one more run on a passed ball that gave Tulane a four-run lead. Trevor Holmes (Ashland, Mass.) took the eighth for the Huskies and stranded runners on the corners in a scoreless frame.
Still down four heading to the bottom of the eighth, seniors Testani and Yavarone led off the inning with back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. After Gibaut notched a strikeout for the first out, Siena launched a triple to deep center field that brought in two runs and cut the lead to 6-4. Melley followed a batter later with an RBI double to left, setting the table for DeRoche-Duffin. After falling behind in the count 1-2, DeRoche-Duffin took a hanging breaking ball and crushed it deep over the left field fence to give UConn a 7-6 advantage.
Anthony Kay (Stony Brook, N.Y.) entered out of the bullpen for the Huskies for the second straight day in the ninth to close it out and struck out the game's final hitter to record his first save in exactly one year. The victory marked only the third time this season Tulane has fallen when leading after seven innings, with two of those setbacks against UConn.
The Huskies are back in action tomorrow afternoon to face East Carolina at 1 p.m. at Bright House Field. If UConn is able to defeat ECU, it will force a game two with the Pirates later on Saturday with a trip to the American Championship title game on the line.
UConn is now 3-2 all-time against Tulane, with all five meetings coming this season
Joe DeRoche-Duffin is the lone Husky to homer in back-to-back games this year and has now done so on three separate occasions
Jordan Tabakman raised his career inning total to 269.1, third-most in UConn history
UConn improved to 17-2 when scoring in the first inning and 23-5 when scoring first in 2015