In an alternate universe, one before lockdowns and cancellations, I would have titled this piece, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” in honor of college baseball, which would have just finished conference tournaments and the fans would have all been on the edge of their seats waiting for the NCAA regionals bracket. Who is going to host? Who is on the bubble? Which team should have made it in but got left out? And on and on. It’s just good fun, y’all.
It really is my favorite time of the year on the college sports calendar. Obviously college football is still grand and March Madness brings the drama but I just love the NCAA regionals. I guess because they’re so big, but yet, not really followed by the average sports fan. It’s an odd, beautiful creature.
Oddly enough, in a cruel twist of fate, it felt like Tulane already had a spot in the tournament locked up, even before conference play, after a torrid 15-2 start to the season. Obviously anything can happen over a season but it’s also not out of the question that this team could have hosted a regional. This team was damn good.
First, the hot bats were still in Uptown. Any concern that the offense would take a step back in the wake of a Kody Hoese-less lineup was put to rest by the end of February. In their seven March contests before the cancellation of the season, the Green Wave offense averaged 11 runs a game. Yes, it was against lesser competition but that’s exactly when a lot of teams stumble and watch their NCAA regional dreams sail off into the night. This team didn’t.
With that said, there are plenty of teams that can put up a lot of runs in the NCAA and never make it to the NCAA regionals (just look at last year’s Tulane team). What made this team stand out, and could have pushed this club possibly all the way to Omaha, was its starting pitching.
Tulane absolutely had the staff to win any weekend. Tulane’s ace was Braden Olthoff (4-0) who immediately put the NCAA on notice with an incredible start to the season.
Just look at Olthoff’s line through four starts – 28 IP, 47 K’s, 1 earned run, 0.32 ERA.
In three out of his four starts on the young season, Olthoff went for double digits in the strikeout department with a season-high 16 strikeouts in a complete game shutout against Cal-State Fullerton. Absolutely dominant performances by the young man and evidently inspired the guys around him. Following Olthoff was Saturday starter, Jack Aldrich (2-0), whose 1.86 ERA through 19.1 innings of work would have easily made him Tulane’s best pitcher under Coach Jewett’s tenure. Sunday pitcher Donovan Benoit (2-0) posted a 4.19 ERA after one bad outing but would get you to the sixth inning more often than not with a great performance.
I could go on (Luke Jannetta!) but the point is that this team was built for a great tournament run with a pitching staff that could own a weekend. What could have been.
Since we’re all just sitting around doing a bunch of nothing sports-wise don’t be surprised to see me gushing about the UNO Privateers (11-6) next week, who were off to a stellar start out on the Lakefront. The Privateers dropped their first two games of the year only to bounce back by winning 11 of their next 15.
The team had a midweek win over Tulane (because Blake Dean evidently owns the Green Wave) and a series win over UConn.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Great Raft Brewing’s “Reasonably Corrupt” Black Lager
Playlist Recommendation: The Cure – “A Night Like This”
Around the Way
Like everyone else, I can’t wait until the city is completely reopened and we’re all dancing in the street together but, as that is a long way away, I’ll happily take the small victories. The latest is our libraries coming back.
I am a library junkie and even though I still won’t be able to chill inside Milton Latter, at least I can go get some books and movies in a no-touch fashion, keeping everyone involved safe and sound. Welcome back, librarians!