NEW ORLEANS — It was a night for all of Tulane’s arms to be on alert.
A pitching staff already depleted by injuries and at the onset of a five-game week was put to work when starting pitcher David Napoli left the mound with an injury to his left forearm, recognized between the first and second innings.
His absence, however, proved to be negligible in the scheme of the game. A trio of Green Wave relievers came on to propel Tulane to a 3-0 win over Northwestern State on Tuesday night at Turchin Stadium.
Freshmen Daniel Rankin, Emerson Gibbs and Ian Gibaut combined to carry Tulane through eight shutout innings, pitching around eight Demons hits while striking out nine and walking four.
“The one thing we really needed tonight was not to have to go too deep into our bullpen,” Tulane coach Rick Jones said. “Fortunately, Rankin, Emerson and Ian all pitched well and we didn’t have to overtax any of them, and they’ll all be ready for this weekend, and we will need them.”
The freshmen were able to pitch with the benefit of a lead throughout the night, thanks to some timely hitting in the opening inning.
Brandon Boudreaux and Andrew Garner sandwiched a pair of two-out hits around a Sean Potkay walk to grab a 2-0 first-inning lead. Garner’s two-run single through the middle allowed Tulane (7-6) to grab momentum from the onset.
Yet it was briefly halted when Napoli was removed from the mound before even throwing his first pitch. While the injury wasn’t determined, volunteer assistant coach Shooter Hunt pointed out to Jones and team trainer Andy Massey something was wrong in Napoli’s delivery. Jones and Massey then walked from the dugout to take a look at Napoli in the midst of his warmup pitches, promptly removing him from the game.
“Shooter said, ‘Something don’t look right,’ and Shooter is pretty good judge of that,” Jones said. “We had (team physician) Dr. (Buddy) Savoie in the dugout, and he was cautiously optimistic that maybe we can even have him back by the weekend, but I am not about to say that yet. I’m going to say, let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
Napoli joins a cast of injured Green Wave pitchers which includes Alex Massey, Alex Facundus, Andrew Reeves and Tyler Mapes (who is out for the season). The injury pileup has Tulane missing 31 starts and 80 appearances from last year, not to mention its likely closer, Sunday starter and top midweek starter.
Although Tulane’s offense was rendered mostly quiet by a pair of Demons pitchers, the Green Wave were able to add on an insurance run in the sixth thanks to an error and a pair of singles, including an RBI by Bowen Woodson.
It provided more than enough support for Tulane’s standout freshmen pitching to attack hitters, regardless of the situation, forcing the Demons (6-7) to strand 10 base runners.
Now, Tulane will turn to its former ace, Covington native Randy Leblanc (2-2, 5.82 ERA in 38.2 in 2012), at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the series finale against the Demons. Leblanc has thrown just one inning this season, after recovering from Tommy John surgery two seasons ago and struggling as a starter last year.
“We would love to see a good performance from Randy tomorrow,” Jones said. “That would be a huge boost for us.”