Teams strive for consistency, but the lone constant around Tulane baseball this year has been the kind nobody wants.
Game after game, week after week, month after month and loss after loss, the Green Wave can’t hit or score. With Tulane on pace for its worst season in 23 years, interim coach Jake Gautreau has almost run out of time for a solution.
“We’ve tried everything from tinkering with our stances and swings to our mental approach, changing things up in practice, changing things up in games,” Gautreau said Wednesday as Tulane (15-23, 6-13 Conference USA) prepared for a nonconference weekend series against Wichita State (21-19) at Turchin Stadium. “We have scouting reports, we have pitcher tendency charts we are almost hand delivering to guys what this pitcher is going to throw on this pitch in this at-bat. Things just haven’t really gotten going for us.”
After losing 2-1 and 2-0 over the weekend to cellar-dwelling Charlotte in Conference USA, Tulane slipped to 289th out of 296 Division I teams with a .223 batting average. The Wave — which went to the College World Series twice in the last decade and reached regionals nine times in a row from 1998-2006 — ranks above only Utah, Portland, Coppin State, Rhode Island, Northern Illinois, Mississippi Valley and UT Martin in hitting.
That’s not the company Tulane wants to keep.
After Tuesday night’s 6-0 loss to LSU at Alex Box Stadium, the average dropped another percentage point to .222.
“It’s just been one of those deals where they’ve tried to do too much to get out of it instead of taking a step back and keeping it really simple and not panicking,” Gautreau said. “They’ve tried to make things happen way too much, and you’ve seen it kind of spiral out of control.”
That’s one view. Sophomore outfielder Richard Carthon, who leads the team with a .297 batting average, shared another.
“Guys need to start being aggressive and attack counts,” he said. “Right now, we’re watching too many strikes. We’re just getting attacked by pitchers.”
Barring a tremendous uptick, Tulane will score fewer than 200 runs for the first time since 1976, when it managed 199 in 39 games. The Wave has 134 runs in 38 games, scoring zero or one run in nine of its last 13. It has been shut out six times, one shy of the school record set in 1971.
Bad with the bases empty, Tulane is even worse at the plate with runners on base. To wit: freshman third baseman Hunter Hope, batting a respectable .278, has 40 hits but has scored only eight times.
“Some people are scared,” Hope said. “They are going up there and thinking too much or not mentally prepared to go into that at-bat. We’ve tried a lot just to calm everyone down.”
Playing Wichita State may help them loosen up. With Tulane already long gone from at-large NCAA regional consideration, the series against the Shockers amounts to a practice run before the final three weekends of conference play, when the Wave will make a desperate attempt to qualify for the eight-team Conference USA tournament.
Three-and-half-games behind eighth-place Middle Tennessee at the moment, Tulane will feel pressured to win almost every league game the rest of the way. The sole goal against Wichita State is gaining confidence.
“We have to get momentum,” Carthon said. “We’ll see who wants to fight. Right now it’s just about finding out who’s really out here to try to win games. We’re going to find them and we’re going to use them.”
Three players are hitting as high as .250, with freshman second baseman Jake Willsey joining Carthon and Hope. Tulane figured to endure some growing pains with five freshmen in the lineup, but seniors Andrew Garner (.248), Bowen Woodson (.222) and Nick DiMaggio (.213) have struggled, too.
The hitting woes are teamwide.
“The only thing you can do is continue to stay positive and continue working,” Gautreau said. “Hopefully once one guy gets hot, so will the others and it will kind of snowball that way. We want to get hot, we want to get on a roll and keep this thing going.”