Tulane won’t have white-hot shortstop Stephen Alemais when it faces Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday night, but the Green Wave learned it could win without him over the weekend.
The Wave spread the wealth in a three-game sweep of Pepperdine, taking the last two games after Alemais departed with a left-shoulder injury in the first inning on Saturday. Coach David Pierce ruled him out for the rest of the week on Monday and said he was unsure when he would return.
In Alemais’ absence, Tulane (7-4) raised its batting average to .305, with seven starters hitting .282 or better. His replacement, freshman Cade Edwards, had two hits Saturday and has not made an error in 13 chances.
“What we’re always trying to create with our lineup is good balance and not dependent on one player or two players, and that’s obvious in our stats up to this point,” Pierce said. “Our bench has been very productive, too. We know that we have options.”
The Wave lost 16-0 to the Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4) the last time they played in 2014, but Pierce’s team bears little resemblance to that group. The freshmen who dominated the lineup back then have grown up, with third baseman Hunter Hope, left field Lex Kaplan and second baseman Jake Willsey all batting above. 300. Another junior who started in 2014, catcher Jake Rogers, made the American Athletic Conference honor roll Monday after scoring five runs with five RBIs in four games last week.
That’s one reason Tulane, which has not hit better than .253 as a team since 2012, may be able to afford the loss of Alemais and his team-high .462 average for the short term.
Dominant starting pitching should help, too. The Wave allowed three runs over 28 innings in its demolition of Pepperdine, with the starters extending their scoreless streak at Turchin Stadium to six games before Emerson Gibbs finally gave up three runs on Sunday.
Freshman Ross Massey (1-1, 1.64 ERA) will go against the Cajuns after striking out seven and yielding one earned run in five innings at Southeastern Louisiana last Wednesday.
Louisiana-Lafayette will pitch sophomore Evan Guillory (0-2, 3.86), a right-hander who has lost starts against Louisiana Tech and McNeese State a year after going 5-0. The Cajuns are coming off three consecutive NCAA regional appearances under coach Tony Robichaux.
“They have some veteran kids that are coming off the last couple of years with a lot of confidence,” Pierce said. “It’s going to be a challenge and it’s going to be a great opportunity to bring a quality team in here and have a shot at it.”
He would love to see the same all-around performance as this past weekend. Tulane hammered Pepperdine, which has played in two consecutive regionals, 30-3 over the weekend. It was the most lopsided series for the Wave since it had the same 27-run margin against Brown in 2012 and the first nonconference opponent with any pedigree it had swept since Arizona State in 2005 — the last time Tulane reached the College World Series under former coach Rick Jones.
“Our mentality and confidence really took a leap because of our quality play all weekend,” Pierce said. “We threw a lot of strikes, we had some great defensive plays and we made all the routine ones, so that gives us a chance to win.”
Tulane is 43-42 all-time against the Cajuns. … The Cajuns won both meetings in 2014, and the teams did not play last season. The Wave will travel to Lafayette for a rematch on April 12. … Pierce said he had not determined which pitcher would start Wednesday at UNO, although a forecast for heavy rain may cause that game to be postponed.