A season of missed opportunities continued this weekend at Turchin Stadium as the Tulane Green Wave (24-28) lost another series versus the Houston Cougars. An all too familiar, old-fashioned butt whippin’ prompted by a team that has been haunted by errors, kicked off the series with a 15-3 loss. On Saturday, the bats would go silent in a 4-0 loss, before the Green Wave took “Senior Day” with an 11-4 victory. It would be the team’s fourth consecutive series loss with only one more series to go in a year that has been absolutely baffling.
Coach Travis Jewett, in his first year, isn’t on the hot seat, but the sub-par results, a losing record and a veteran team that, even at the end of season, still looks unsettled has to raise some eyebrows in the athletic department. This is a team that was supposed to contend for the regular season title, not one entering the last week of the season with hopes of sweeping out the last four games to avoid a losing campaign.
This isn’t the usual first year job for a new head coach either. Jewett didn’t enter the season with a bunch of youngsters coming off of a losing season. Jewett took over a team that has back-to-back NCAA regional appearances and the school’s first regular season title in 11 years. This is a tournament team that eliminated Ole Miss in Oxford and swept LSU last year. The proverbial cupboard was full.
It just didn’t happen. For some reason, it never clicked.
For every mid-season surge you point to you can point the other way as well. Tulane didn’t answer the bell to start the season, falling to an unfathomable 3-12 to kick off the 2017 campaign and immediately eliminate any talks of Top 25 appearances.
However, the ball did start to bounce the other way, as the Green Wave would win nine of their next 12 games. The team bolted out to a 7-2 record in the American Athletic Conference but right when the Olive and Blue faithful said let’s go, the team’s momentum screeched to a halt. After a sweep over UConn, the team hasn’t won another series. Right when the Green Wave could’ve taken charge of the AAC they’ve gone 4-8 in the conference, sinking to fifth place.
Just as unsettling, is the team’s propensity to get absolutely blown out of games. Everyone gives up a “big night” every once in awhile but Tulane has given up double digit run totals in 12 games. And this isn’t just outbursts like the 18-run barrage by West Virginia, this is getting your hat handed to you by the likes of Cincinnati (11 runs), Stetson (12 runs) and Columbia (11 runs).
Jewett has watched his team’s pitching staff go from combining for 12 shutouts last year to two this year. The pitching staff’s ERA has ballooned to north of five runs and they sit last or next to last in almost every significant category. This is where I would like to point to the batting prowess of the team but that’s pretty ho-hum, as well. Yes, they lead the AAC in homeruns but they also lead it in strikeouts. Remember all of those ninth-inning rallies last year and the team’s never say die attitude? It’s missing.
Like the old saying goes, sometimes things are just tough all over. You can’t always get what you want, either. Tulane isn’t the only program that isn’t living up to preseason expectations. If the season ended today, some projections have UL-Lafayette missing the regionals as well as the defending national champions, Coastal Carolina. Hell, some writers had the East Carolina Pirates going all the way to Omaha and they have yet to find their way out of last place in the AAC. Over in Houston, Rice University is about to see their 22 year streak of making the NCAA regionals come to an end unless they get the automatic berth by winning the Conference USA tournament.
And that’s why Tulane still has hope, too.
Like I said before, once the team lands in Clearwater, Florida for the tournament the slate is clean and everyone is back in the hunt. The chase for a return to the NCAA’s will boil down to whether Tulane can gut out some hard-fought victories over a five day span, which is exactly what a veteran ball club can do.
Your last chance to see this senior class play at home is tonight at 6:30 p.m. when the Green Wave host the University of New Orleans Privateers at Turchin Field. Congratulations and thank you to all of the young men who have brought the Tulane Green Wave baseball program such success over the past few years and good luck the rest of the way. Roll Wave.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Bayou Teche Brewing’s “Swamp Thing” IPA
Playlist Recommendation: Donna Summer – “Last Dance”
Around the Way
They almost pulled it off. The UNO Privateers scored six runs in the last two innings to tie Nicholls State at seven a piece, only to see the Colonels win the game on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth, losing the game 8-7 as well as the series. Which, unfortunately, could be the play that cost them a shot at returning to the Southland Conference tournament for the second straight season under coach Blake Dean.
The Privateers (25-25-1) are in the hunt for the eighth seed — the last spot — of the tournament. They trail Stephen F. Austin and Nicholls State by one game. Two of the three teams will qualify for the tournament in Katy, Texas, one team’s season will end.
Unfortunately for UNO, if they should tie one of those teams, they will lose on a tiebreaker. So, the Privateers are in “Sweep or Bust” mode this weekend at Northwestern State. They would need that sweep and for either SFA or Nicholls State to lose two games.
The good news is that Northwestern State is only 20-30 on the year. The bad news is that UNO has only won six games away from Maestri Field. Good luck, Privateers!