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Cincinnati wastes big lead but has 10th-inning answer

A starting pitcher is mowing down opponents and on the verge of a shutout. He gets yanked and the relief pitching gets smacked around.

Haven't we seen this in St. Petersburg before?

Leading Southern Mississippi 2-0 with one on and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Cincinnati coach Brian Cleary pulled starter Joey List.

In a fashion not to dissimilar to what has been seen a few blocks down at Tropicana Field, reliever Curtis Moak (6-2) promptly allowed the Golden Eagles to tie the score and send the game into extra innings.

But List's splendid work Wednesday at Florida Power Park was not in vain.

The Bearcats scored five in the 10th, highlighted by Anthony Snowell's two-run triple, for a dramatic 7-2 win on the opening day of the Conference USA tournament.

"(Disaster) does cross your mind," Cleary said. "But, I didn't feel like it was a disaster. I thought we did a good job just getting out of the ninth. Certainly, it's frustrating. It had the potential to be real tough if we lose a game like that. The concern would be how to come back. I was glad we scored five in the 10th. I didn't want to go back out there."

The Bearcats face UAB, 11-4 winners over Tulane, at 4 p.m. today.

"This is a big win for us and I'm really proud of our team," Cleary said. "We had a lot of other guys, up and down our lineup, do a lot of stuff to make us successful."

List, erratic this season, was splendid when his team needed it most. He held Southern Mississippi to three hits and seven walks over 8 innings.

"I would say that it was my strongest performance of the year," List said.

UAB 11, TULANE 4: A calculated risk backfired for Tulane, which entered the tournament as the No. 2 team and was supposed to polish off No. 7 UAB.

Saving ace left-hnader Jared Berkowitz (12-2, 3.33 ERA) for today, Green Wave coach Rick Jones went with third-day starter Barth Melius.

The Blazers hammered 13 hits, took advantage of three errors and stunned Tulane. Tulane faces Southern Mississippi in a losers' bracket game at 9 this morning.

"Needless to say, that's probably one of the biggest wins UAB has had in many, many years," Blazers coach Larry Giangrosso said. "I think we were 0-12 going into this year with them."

Melius (4-5) allowed six runs in a little over four innings. The inspired Blazers added five more off two relievers to become the lowest seed to win a C-USA tournament game since 1996.

"I thought Barth had real good stuff," Jones said. "I didn't think there was any question about his stuff. But you have to play defense no matter who is pitching."

While Melius was struggling, Blazers starter Lee Jolly (4-3) was all smiles. Jolly gave up four runs on nine hits but, more importantly, kept the bullpen out of action by going the distance.

"Lee just pitched a great ballgame today," Giangrosso said. "We were able to put the ball in the spots where we could tie up their hitters. I think the biggest thing was we survived not letting them have big innings."

HOUSTON 4, LOUISVILLE 3: Walk-on reserve Jason Kirchner cranked the first pitch he saw for a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score and set up a win four batters later for the No. 1 seed.

Trailing 3-1, rightfielder Eric Lee led off with a single and scored on Kirchner's blast. Brandon Carraway singled, Shane Nance reached on error and Aaron Melebeck was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Catcher Jarrod Bitter, who was involved in a skirmish with Cardinals rightfielder Paul Brown in the first inning but was not ejected, won it with a long single over the head of a drawn in David Williams in leftfield.

ALL-CONFERENCE HONORS: Tulane's triple crown leader Jake Gautreau, who led the Green Wave in hitting (.395), home runs (15) and RBI (65), was named C-USA's player of the year. He ranked second, third and first, respectively, in those categories.

Houston pitcher Kyle Crowell (12-2, 2.35 ERA, 103 strikeouts) was named pitcher of the year. Crowell was 8-1 with a 2.95 ERA and had 65 strikeouts in 64 innings in league games.

Rayner Noble was named coach of the year. Under his guidance, the Cougars finished 21-4 in conference (39-14 overall) and had 15 wins over ranked teams.

UNCC outfielder Mike Taylor hit .365, added 42 RBI and 11 stolen bases to earn freshman of the year honors.