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Tulane shortstop Sal Gozzo tags LSU second baseman Cole Freeman out at second base in the first inning after Freeman was caught stealing March 28, 2017, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

Continuing a torrid stretch, Tulane shortstop Sal Gozzo singled in two runs during Sunday's 6-2 win against Purdue.

It was another big moment in a turnaround season at the plate.

Gozzo, a solid-fielding sophomore who hit only .211 as a freshman, is batting nearly 100 percentage points higher (.309) this year entering the Green Wave's home game against Louisiana-Lafayette at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"I'm just trying to make good, hard contact and get on base," he said. "I'm putting together productive at-bats so the people behind me can just hit me in."

Both teams really need to win. Tulane (8-8) is trying to build off the momentum of a series victory against Purdue and put last year's losing season behind it. The Cajuns (6-9), whose streak of four regionals appearances ended last year, are coming off their fourth consecutive series loss.

Tulane freshman Josh Bates (1-0, 4.82 ERA) will oppose Cajuns left-hander Colten Schmidt (1-0, 1.50).

Gozzo's rise has been even more dramatic in his past eight games, when he is hitting .429 with 12 hits in 28 at-bats.

His numbers are better across the board. A year ago, he had six doubles and no home runs in a 147 at-bats. This season, he already has five doubles and his first career homer in 55 at-bats.

Last year, he scored 17 runs with 23 RBIs. This season, he is on pace for nearly 40 runs and 40 RBIs.

"It's just hard work," coach Travis Jewett said. "You're starting to see some of his flight patterns change a little bit. He's trying work with not trying to be so down and cutting through the ball. He's trying to hit more line drives. He can charge a ball and get something between the outfielders. He's come a long way."

His production at or near the bottom of the order is reflective of the entire lineup. Despite losing seven regulars from 2017, Tulane has raised its batting average from .266 to .274 and is scoring more, too (5.9 to 5.4).

The problem has been shaky pitching outside of Friday starter Kaleb Roper and Sunday starter Keagan Gillies.

"Offensively we're pretty good, and it's going to help us in the long run," Gozzo said. "Our pitching's going to come around. We've got a lot of young guys with good arms. Experience is going to do them good."

Injury updates

Outfielder/backup catcher Ty Johnson, who left Sunday after aggravating a hip injury while rounding first base on a hard hit, may be held out Tuesday.

Johnson's hitting .288 and has started every game despite the lingering issue.

"I'll see where he's at, but it's probably in the best interest of him and us (to sit out Tuesday)," Jewett said. "We'll see what Wednesday brings. We may even wait to the weekend to fire him back, but I don't see it being anything crazy."

Reliever Brandon Issa will be available to pitch against the Cajuns or Southern Miss on Wednesday after Jewett removed him in the middle of the seventh inning Saturday because of an arm problem.

"I was just watching his body language and went out to check on him," Jewett said. "He said I just kind of felt something. His forearm was a little bit tight. It wasn't anything hurting, so nothing really to report there."

Jewett said closer Will McAffer, who has not pitched since giving up four runs in one-third of an inning while blowing a save opportunity against Cal State Fullerton on March 3, is healthy.


Roper was named American Athletic Conference pitcher of the week after allowing two hits and no runs in eight innings as Tulane beat Purdue 1-0 on Friday. … The Cajuns are batting .189, the fourth-lowest average out of 297 Division I teams. … The two teams have split their home-and-home meetings the past two years, with each winning once at home and once on the road.

Follow Guerry Smith on Twitter, @guersmith