Change is just about everywhere in the Tulane baseball program.
Look no further than the release of the Green Wave’s schedule Tuesday afternoon for evidence.
The 54-game slate is not only two less than the 56 typically scheduled, but a pair of West Coast trips and an entrance into the American Athletic Conference have changed many of the opponents perennially seen on Tulane’s itinerary.
The schedule also features just 30 home games (the lowest number in years), 32 games against teams who finished last season rated in the RPI’s top-100 and 17 matchups with 2014 NCAA tournament teams.
Of course, the biggest change facing Tulane this season is the entrance of a new coach for the first time since 1994. David Pierce, who came to the Green Wave after three consecutive at-large NCAA tournament berths at Sam Houston State, replaced Rick Jones in June.
“The one thing I’ve always learned is to look where your opponents’ RPI has been, and fortunately we have been able to earn an at-large bid the past three years, thanks mostly to our RPI,” Pierce said. “Our formula has worked. The biggest issue is to stay within the top 150 in RPI and try to avoid the teams with really poor RPIs.
“It’s not necessary to play the top 25, but you have to stay away from the bottom 150 or so. So I look for a great balance, so we really don’t have a multitude of very low RPI opponents.”
While Pierce admitted most of the slate was made in advance of his arrival, he did add some of his own touches. It started in the fall when he planned two offseason games — at Rice on Oct. 11 and home against UNO on Oct. 18 — which won’t count in the record but limit the spring schedule from 56 to 54 games.
“The reason we are playing those two fall games is because we don’t want to play five games in a week,” Pierce said. “We originally had four fall games scheduled but eliminated two so that we could keep some balance.”
The season-opening Feb. 13 trip to Malibu, California, for three games with Pepperdine was scheduled by Jones. However, the March 20 trek to UC-Riverside was a late addition, thanks to some confusion within the AAC’s conference schedule.
“We all thought that was going to be a league weekend, so every team in the conference actually had an open date for that time — until September,” Pierce said. “Most schedules are done almost two years in advance, and we wanted to fill in that open weekend, and (we) tried to get Riverside to come here and they were just about the only available team. So it’s why we have two West Coast trips — because we needed those three games and they were the best available team.”
The second trip out west also demonstrated Tulane’s financial commitment to baseball. After not even boarding a plane during three seasons at Sam Houston State, Pierce said he was given no problems when he substituted what was supposed to be a home date for an expensive trip across the country.
“The support has been great financially,” Pierce said. “We haven’t had any kind of setbacks.”
Pierce’s other touch on the schedule was adding Creighton (RPI No. 68) for a home series at Turchin Stadium on Feb. 27.
“We think this is a really competitive schedule and we expect to play well enough to get it to reach the NCAA tournament,” Pierce said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Tulane baseball 2015 schedule
13-15: at Pepperdine
18: at Southeastern Louisiana
20-22: San Francisco
24: at UNO
3: at Nicholls State
11: at Southern Miss
17: Southeastern Louisiana
20-22: at UC Riverside
25: at LSU
31: at UNC-Wilmington
2-4: at East Carolina
7: Nicholls State
10-12: at Houston
14: Southern Miss
24-26: at Cincinnati
28: Southeastern Louisiana
14-16: at Memphis