Every game is supposed to be treated equally.
Day after day and week after week, Tulane baseball coach David Pierce has remained steadfast in his comments that each of the Green Wave’s 54 regular-season games hold significance. It’s a philosophy which guards his team from emphasizing or overlooking one particular date on the calendar due to circumstances.
That task gets much harder on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.
Not only does the Green Wave (17-7) match up with its arch-rival, but it also hosts the No. 1 team in the country when LSU arrives to a sold-out Turchin Stadium. The amplification is impossible to ignore.
Despite Tulane’s single-game ticket prices climbing from $15 to $30 for the contest, LSU’s annual Uptown visit typically draws the largest crowd of the season and the chatter around campus grows along with it. The Tigers (21-3) also draw their own supporters, who fill up parking lots early and pay the premium prices to see LSU take on Tulane.
It all makes for a unique environment and one Tulane’s players openly relish.
“There’s more excitement around this game, and we always hear from people who don’t really know much about the season, but who are particularly tuned in to this game,” junior outfielder and Shreveport native Richard Carthon said. “People tell you how they’re going to come out to watch you play and when they’re No. 1 in the country and we’re having a pretty good season, it adds something to it, because this game could really make a difference down the line.”
It also provides Pierce with a measuring stick for his team and his program as he seeks to develop the rivalry back to its heyday, when the pair routinely sold out Zephyr Field and even drew a then-record 27,673 fans to the Superdome in 2002.
He likened the rivalry to his time as an assistant at Rice, when the Owls battled perennial power Texas multiple times per year.
“Texas was the big state school with all of the tradition, and Rice was the small, great academic school which grew into the ability to beat Top 10 opponents and beat No. 1 teams,” Pierce said. “Our intention is to become that type of school again at Tulane, where we are back in that category, so we have the ability to beat anyone in the country and if that happens to be LSU, great.”
Still, Pierce guarded against making too much out of one game on one individual night.
When junior Patrick Duester (3-1, 0.34 ERA) takes the mound, he said it will be the largest crowd he’s ever pitched in front of, against the highest-ranked team he’s ever faced, but won’t change his approach to the game.
“It’s still just pitching, and it’s the same game I played when it was in front of a few hundred people and not a sold out stadium,” Duester said. “This is more about us trying to have fun and get a win than anything else.”
Because beyond the RPI implications, bragging rights or program perception, Tulane needs to correct some of the woes which caused it to lose a pair of games at UC-Riverside over the previous weekend and prepare to host its first ever American Athletic Conference games, starting on Friday against Connecticut.
“The biggest issue for me is to try to get our players to simply stay within themselves,” Pierce said.
“We just want them to do what they’re capable of doing. That, to me, may be the hardest thing to overcome but is also the most important. I think we just tried to do too much this weekend and it really sharpens our focus going into (Tuesday), because we just need to execute and everything else will take care of itself.”