Mark Scalf noticed the LSU fans scurrying for the exits at Alex Box Stadium late during his team’s romping win over Tulane on Sunday evening.
An announcement had just been made, but the UNC-Wilmington coach couldn’t hear it as he managed the Seahawks game in the ninth inning against the Green Wave.
He was told moments later: There would be no nightcap Sunday.
“I can’t say it doesn’t give us a little breather,” Scalf said after his team’s 8-2 win in an elimination game over Tulane in the only game played at the NCAA Baton Rouge regional on another rainy day.
For Scalf and his Seahawks (41-17), it’s a chance for his team to rest, including his hard-throwing closer another day, for a possible two games against national No. 2 seed LSU (50-10) on Monday.
The NCAA postponed the Baton Rouge regional title game, originally set for 7 p.m. Sunday, after UNCW’s game against Tulane didn’t end until 9:22 p.m. after a more than three-hour rain delay.
It left LSU coach Paul Mainieri unhappy and athletic director Joe Alleva incensed. Scalf and the Seahawks? They’re doing just fine.
“We’ve gotten into bed at 2:30 in the morning and 3:30 the last two days,” Scalf said. “NCAA made that decision. We were prepared to play one way or the other. Tomorrow, at least we get a decent rest tonight.”
UNCW would have been starting a fourth game in about 48 hours – and a second in the last four hours – if the Seahawks and Tigers would have played Sunday night.
“I’m glad we are going to have an opportunity to go back and rest because we’ll certainly need it against what I think may certainly be the best club in the country,” Scalf said. “The lineup they have…. they continue to grind and they just wear you down. The pitching depth that they got … we’re going to have to certainly play our best baseball to stay in the ball game tomorrow and give ourselves a chance at the back end.”
Relievers ready if Crump falters
Freshman right-handed pitcher Justin Crump will get just his third start of the season, but the Seahawks have more than enough fresh relievers to save him if need be – despite playing three games in less than 48 hours.
The Seahawks used a total of five pitchers in the three games this weekend.
UNCW got a complete game from Ryan Foster in a regional-opening win over Tulane, and Nick Monroe went 8.2 innings in the elimination game victory over the Green Wave. Evan Phillips went six innings in the 2-0 loss to LSU on Saturday night.
The bad for Scalf and Co.: Those three top starters are likely unavailable.
The good: They used just two relievers, and one of them, Clay Lockamon, threw five pitches.
Hard-throwing closer Jordan Ramsey, with a 1.68 ERA, is available, Scalf said Sunday night. He threw 43 pitches against LSU.
“Our bullpen is pretty fresh,” Scalf said. “If we have to go early tomorrow, which we may have to, then we will.”
The Tigers have every reliever available as well. In fact, LSU hasn’t used its top two relief pitchers – Parker Bugg and Zac Person – and it is starting No. 2 guy Jared Poché (7-1, 3.35).
Crump (1.1, 2.70) hasn’t gone more than 4 innings in any appearance this season. He’s got a 19-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he’s made just two appearance in the last month.
“Fastball, curveball, changeup guy,” Scalf said. “Not a whole lot different than most, but he’s our freshest arm at this point. He has had a couple of starts. We just feel like that’s our best option because of him being as fresh as anybody.”
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