Maybe you’re a casual baseball fan, or you might be one that stopped keeping up with Tulane once they hit a rough patch in their exemplary history on the diamond. Maybe you’ve forgotten about the baseball team, since it seems as though the local news only carries highlights of that other team from the north. Or maybe you don’t go to the games because you’re mad they don’t give free ice cream to adults on Sundays. Whatever the reason might be, just let it be known – Green Wave baseball is for real.
And once again, they showed it on the weekend, counting the East Carolina Pirates (20-11) as their latest victim following the team’s sixth series win. A win that pushed the Green Wave (21-10) into the national Top 25, debuting at No. 22 on D1baseball.com. Tulane got complete game performances by freshman Ross Massey and senior Emerson Gibbs – who pitched a shutout – to take the first two games of the series 5-2, 3-0, respectively. Gibbs was named the AAC pitcher of the week for his performance. As for Massey, what else could you ask of this youngster? Scratch that, he’s playing too well to be called youngster. Massey, who was called upon to take over for Friday ace Corey Merrill as he rehabs his shoulder injury, went toe-to-toe with East Carolina’s Evan Kruczynski. Both pitchers worked into the last inning, and it seemed that Kruczynski was about to hand the Wave the loss before some timely hitting by Grant Witherspoon (yell it with me, “SPOOOOON!”), and Lex Kaplan. Then Hunter Williams came to the plate and took a two-out pitch over the wall for a three-run walk-off home run. Williams collected two more RBIs on Saturday in a weekend that saw the junior return to the lineup from a hand injury that sidelined the first baseman since Feb. 26.
I titled this piece, “Enter the Green Wave,” in reference to the amazing 1973 Bruce Lee film, “Enter the Dragon,” for good reason. It seems this team – like Lee – is building towards knocking out some heavyweights when it matters most – at the end of the movie, or, as it were, the tournament. The team bears a remarkable calmness and stature about them, much like Lee entering the ring and you’re thinking, “Oh man. This other guy with the perfect 1970’s hair and beard is doomed.”
Cocky? Sure. But look at the numbers:
Six weekend series wins – Tulane is 6-1-1 on the weekenders, with their only loss coming in the Tony Gwynn classic back in February. Head to head they are undefeated.
Three sweeps – Tulane is handling the teams they’re supposed to, with sweeps over Pepperdine, Furman and Illinois State.
The pitching staff that keeps opposing coaches up at night – Ross Massey, Emerson Gibbs and J.P. France all give the team a shot at picking up a victory on their arm alone. The Wave have one of the best staffs in the south, and – oh yeah! – Corey Merrill, the team’s number one starter, has been out for three weeks. When he returns a Merrill, Massey, Gibbs weekend could cause some teams nightmares.
Here come the bats – The Green Wave lead the AAC in home runs with 32, a year after the team only had 29. Eleven different Green Wave batters has played long ball this year, with Hunter Hope leading the team with eight home runs.
This is a different team than last year. Barring the bizarre, it’s not a question of if the team will make the NCAA regionals, the only question now is how high will they be seeded. Tulane will be favored in almost every matchup the rest of the way except maybe a mid-week game against LSU at home (even though Tulane already beat the Tigers at Alex Box Stadium), and a series against Houston on the road. A lot of chips would have to fall Tulane’s way for them to host a regional, but a two seed in – oh I don’t know – Baton Rouge would not be out of the question, and just a little more than exciting, don’t you think?
Tulane starts to kick for home tonight as they travel to Lafayette to take on the Ragin’ Cajuns (21-11) at 6 p.m. The Green Wave will return home to host the Cincinnati Bearcats (16-16) this weekend at Turchin Stadium.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Urban South Brewery’s “Charming Whit”
Playlist Recommendation: Cake – “Daria”
Tulane’s Dominik Koepfer, the No. 1 ranked college tennis player, saw his perfect season come to an end. Koepfer was riding a 21-match winning streak (16-0 this season), before falling to Roberto Cid – the USF Bulls version of Dominik, and ranked No. 5 in the country – 7-6, 6-7, and 3-10 in the super-tiebreaker. Five of the six matches in singles competition went to a tiebreaker, but the No. 22 South Florida Bulls knocked off the No. 27 Green Wave, winning the overall match, 5-2. In a post-match interview, Tulane’s Coach Booras stated, “We need to keep on investing and putting ourselves in the fire.” The Green Wave faced 11 top-40 opponents this season, according to TulaneGreenWave.com. In a related note, Coach Booras has my vote for the, “Coolest looking tennis coach in college,” award.
It was another strong outing for the Loyola Wolfpack Women’s golf team this weekend, as the ladies finished second in their second consecutive outing (say that five times fast) at the Boone Hospital Spring Invitational in Fulton, Missouri. The Wolfpack were led with top-10 finishes by freshman Daria Delfino (+15, for 7th place) and junior Megan Keck (+18, for 8th place), according to the school’s press release. Next up for the Wolf Pack is the Southern States Athletic Conference championship in Montgomery, Alabama.