It wasn’t the weekend the Tulane baseball team wanted, but it was the finish coach David Pierce needed to see.
After it dropped consecutive games to Gonzaga on Friday and Saturday, nearly flawless pitching and defense lifted Tulane to a 3-0 win Sunday at Turchin Stadium, salvaging the final game of the weekend and stopping the losing dip before it became a streak.
“We knew we had to win this game,” senior Tyler Wilson said. “No one wants to get swept at home or swept at all. I think it was a great team win. It’s huge just to bounce back because we know we’re not going to win every single game we play. To be able to come out after two straight losses and play well was big and says a lot about our team chemistry and team character.”
Tim Yandel carried the Green Wave (12-4) again Sunday. Tulane’s No. 3 starter threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and four walks. Improving his record to 2-0, Yandel dropped his ERA to a minuscule 0.68 in 26.1 innings.
Even more than his pitching, Pierce was impressed with the way Yandel helped himself defensively. The former infielder made a pair of spectacular plays to squelch Gonzaga’s best threats to gun for the sweep.
First, he darted to his left to make a bare-handed snag on a well-placed bunt, nabbing a runner at third and keeping the Bulldogs from loading the bases with one out in the second. In the fifth, he faced a bases-loaded jam with one out before fielding a ground ball in front of the mound to start an inning-ending double play.
Gonzaga (7-8) didn’t move a runner past first base the rest of the game.
“It was awesome for us to make that play on one out with the bases loaded,” Pierce said. “We work on the 1-2-3 double play, but I thought (catcher) Cameron Burns finished it great because he has no hesitation.”
It helped preserve a precarious 1-0 lead that was built on drawing four walks in the third inning. Tulane stranded five total base runners in the second and third, despite moving runners into scoring position with less than two outs both times.
Wilson’s two-run homer in the fifth gave the Green Wave its first bit of comfort during the weekend, pushing the lead to 3-0 and changing the tenor in the dugout. Pierce said Hunter Hope’s two-out single that preceded it and Wilson’s drive to left-center lifted the dugout and turned the afternoon around.
“I think it gave everybody a chance to breathe,” Pierce said. “It was a 1-0 ballgame against a good-hitting team playing with confidence. He put a great swing on it. He’s been swinging the bat so well. That home run was the difference.”
Having closer Ian Gibaut in the back end of the bullpen also ensured Tulane wouldn’t surrender the advantage. After giving up the game-winning hit Friday night, Gibaut returned to his dominant form, striking out a pair in two hitless innings and even touching 96 mph on a fastball to record the save.
It was all part of a crucial victory to punctuate a week that began with Tulane climbing into the national polls for the first time since 2011 before knocking off Nicholls State on Tuesday. Now Tulane travels to Southern Miss for a Wednesday night matchup before hosting a nonconference weekend against Xavier with the hopes of staying afloat in the national conversation.
“A 2-2 week is a really big difference from a 1-3 week,” Pierce said. “We bounce back and win on Sunday and feel pretty good about going into next week.”