Lex Kaplan didn’t want to play another extra inning.
Less than 24 hours removed from Tulane and Wichita State grinding their way through 11 scoreless innings before a game-ending grand slam, Kaplan finished off the Shockers by lacing a two-out single through the middle, scoring Andrew Garner and lifting Tulane to a 5-4 victory at Turchin Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The ninth-inning hit clinched Tulane’s first series win since March 22 and punctuated an eventful afternoon with a dramatic finish.
“It’s awesome,” Kaplan said. “To have back-to-back walk-off games, that’s fun. That’s baseball.”
Just minutes earlier, it appeared Tulane’s victory would come by more conventional means. With the score knotted 3, Grant Brown’s two-out double in the eighth inning was followed by Jake Rogers’ RBI single, pushing the Green Wave (17-23) to its first lead.
Then, with closer Ian Gibaut on the mound, Rogers picked off Wes Phillips at second, emptying the bases with two outs. But Tanner Dearman — the Shockers’ 5-foot-7, 152-pound designated hitter, batting No. 9 in the order — blasted a home run over right-field wall, tying the score.
“I was in shock,” Rogers said. “I don’t know about the other players, because I just try to keep it between the lines. But I was in shock.”
It was Dearman’s seventh extra-base hit in his 150th at-bat of the season and demolished the momentum Tulane spent the previous six innings building. Yet, to the Green Wave’s credit, the sudden shot didn’t derail it.
Gibaut bounced back to strike out Micah Green one batter later, then Andrew Garner singled and Hunter Hope walked with two outs in the ninth, setting the stage for Kaplan’s heroics.
“It’s tough, especially when you see a home run and you have all of the momentum and suddenly it brings you down,” Rogers said. “But we didn’t let up. Gibaut kept pitching and got the next guy out and then we came in and didn’t stop.”
It was the second time the Green Wave successfully shook off a homer Saturday against Wichita State (21-21).
After escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first inning thanks to a double play, Tulane starter Randy LeBlanc couldn’t pitch out of similar trouble in the third. Despite getting a defensive assist from Richard Carthon in left field to get an early out, the Shockers pushed across three runs thanks to Chase Simpson’s towering home run to right field.
Simpson was one of eight batters LeBlanc failed to retire in the first three innings. But the junior settled in to finish the frame, then got through the next three innings scoreless to keep the Green Wave within striking distance.
Meanwhile, Tulane chipped away at the Wichita State lead, starting when Brown’s leadoff double led to Jake Willsey’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.
The Green Wave then knocked starter Cale Elam out of the game in the sixth when Willsey hit an infield single off the pitcher’s foot. While Elam tried to pitch through the pain, he surrendered an RBI double to Garrett Deschamp, then overthrew first base on a base on Kaplan’s bunt attempt, sending in the tying run.
“It’s important, because for a while there, we were getting down and having a really tough time getting on the board,” interim coach Jake Gautreau said. “Lately, they have answered right back. It’s a mindset; it’s a confidence thing. Guys are being more aggressive.
“When you have success, whether it’s wins or individual statistics, you gain that confidence. When you’re confident, good things happen, and we’re seeing that now.”
Tulane now turns its attention toward completing its first series sweep since the opening weekend of the season and possibly turning around the season with it.
“It’s huge,” Kaplan said. “Everyone is pumped. We started the season 6-0, and since then everything was starting to go downhill. Then we beat LSU, and then it started going downhill again. These two wins — and to get the sweep would be nice, but this takes a lot of load off our backs.”