As the old saying goes insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Another saying is you have to shake things up. Another saying is he who stands on toilet high on pot but that has absolutely nothing to do with this story. Last year’s Tulane baseball club set a lot of offensive records but missed the NCAA regionals for the third straight season. A lot of the power, and the team’s best starter, moved on so there were a lot of questions lingering over what this new team could do. So far? So great. The fresh faces in Olive and Blue may be just what the doctor ordered (another saying) for a team looking to return to the post-season.
Tulane, after getting thumped in a mid-week game by the University of New Orleans, took care of business this weekend by sweeping Middle Tennessee State University. It was a wild weekend that would see three Tulane pitchers combine for a no-hitter on Friday, a walk-off three run home run on Saturday and a shootout on Sunday that saw the club’s new third baseman Trevor Minder hit for the cycle.
Minder is the perfect example of the “new guys” coming in and stepping up. Minder is not only a new face but has the hefty task of replacing Tulane’s All-World, and current L.A. Dodger, Kody Hoese. While no one is asking Minder to match Hoese’s stats from last year, the junior third baseman’s early returns are very intriguing.
Minder won the second game of the series in the ninth inning when he launched a bomb over the left field fence and lifted the club to an 8-5 victory. Evidently that wasn’t enough for the kid as he returned on Sunday to hit for the cycle, score four times and knock in three more. Minder is now batting .400, has walked seven times, has eight extra base hits and leads the club with 11 RBIs.
Another newbie from the JUCO ranks is catcher Luis Aviles who made his debut with the club on Saturday after coming back from injury. Aviles swung a big bat this weekend and it will be interesting to see how Coach Travis Jewett handles his sudden wealth of options at the catcher position. In two games this weekend, Aviles collected 5 RBIs, 2 doubles and one dinger. He did have one throwing error but it was during an inning best forgotten as the club had three errors in a (now) laughable sequence. Aviles settled down after that and looks like he can do some major damage with his bat.
All of the fresh faces aren’t fresh to town though. Ty Johnson returns after missing the majority of last season with a hand injury. Sophomore Collin Burns is currently starting at short stop after coming off of the bench last year. Ethan Groff is a redshirt freshman who has already played “big” in games against Florida Gulf Coast and Cal State Fullerton. Another fresh face is Simon Baumgardt who may see his playing time increase dramatically if the middle of the infield continues to make too many errors.
Even with all of the new starters up and down the batting order where one really sees the fresh component to Tulane is on the pitching mound as the club features three new weekend starters.
If there were awards given out for best player of February one would be hard pressed to find a better candidate than pitcher Braden Olthoff. The junior right-hander from Palomar College (where he played with fellow fresh face Hayden Hastings) has had a start for the record books. I could use a bunch of clichés here about how awesome the kid has played so far but they wouldn’t capture just how great his performance has been.
First, Olthoff, in his debut with the club, struck out 10 batters in six innings against Florida Gulf Coast in a win. His next start saw Olthoff pitch a 16 strike out, complete game gem in a win over then-ranked Cal State Fullerton. This weekend against MTSU, struck out eight in six innings in a game where he would combine with (new face) Clifton Slagel and Keagan Gillies for a no-hitter. When you add it all up, Olthoff is 3-0, has 34 strikeouts in just 21 innings and a mind-boggling 0.43 ERA. Insane.
Jack Aldrich (2.70 ERA) and Donovan Benoit are both looking good as well. Benoit had a rough performance on Sunday, issuing seven walks and four runs in three innings, but his first two starts of the year were more than solid. Aldrich was off against Fullerton but bounced back with a nice performance against MTSU on Friday night.
And let’s not forget freshman pitcher Luke Janetta who has four appearances out of the bullpen. The youngster has worked 11 innings without giving up a run. See? Fresh faces, fresh blood, it’s all turning up Olive and Blue in Uptown!
Buy a program and learn all about these guys. Your next opportunity to watch Tulane at Turchin Stadium is this Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. when the Green Wave host Texas Southern. Be there.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Second Line Brewing’s “Yeah, You Ripe” Sour
Playlist Recommendation: Lady Gaga – “Stupid Love”
Around the Way
Remember when I told you Coach Blake Dean was rolling into this season with a chip on his shoulder after missing the tournament last year? Dean just completed his greatest week as coach of UNO after beating Tulane mid-week and then leading his team to a series win over UConn. That’s the same Huskies team that took three-of-four games against the University of Michigan, who went all the way to the College World Series championship last year. Very interesting times out at Lakefront.