Tulane baseball coach Travis Jewett did not mince words in his pre-game radio interview on Sunday, emphatically labeling the series finale against Cal State Fullerton a "must-win."
The Green Wave backed him up with a blowout party in the fourth inning, batting around for the first time this year on the way to a comfortable 9-3 victory at Turchin Stadium.
Grant Mathews' double to deep right center was the key blow in a string of five consecutive hits, giving Tulane a 2-1 lead and chasing Fullerton starter Blake Workman before the Wave teed off on reliever Tanner Bibee.
Tulane (6-5) needed the victory in the worst way after getting swept at Ole Miss last weekend and dropping the first two to Fullerton (3-8), including a rough one Saturday in which the Wave scored four times in the eighth to go ahead 6-5 but fell 9-6 after closer Will McAffer gave the runs right back in the top of the ninth.
"It's very gratifying," Jewett said. "I don't think that (calling it a must-win) was too much of a statement. It wasn't like we said during our pre-game meeting that if we don't win this game the world is going to come to an end, but everybody understood the importance of this game."
Sophomore Keagan Gillies (1-1), a Brother Martin product who was done in by one bad inning in his first two starts, retired the last 12 batters he faced after giving up a lead-off home run in the top of the fourth.
"After the home run, I bore down a little bit, pounded the zone and let my defense work," he said. "I'm learning from each start, and today it showed."
With a chance to bring out the brooms, Fullerton (3-8) fell victim to the Bourbon Street Blues. Coach Rick Vanderhook held out seven players, including four regular starters, after they missed curfew on Saturday night. He banished them to the top of the bleachers down the right-field line by the wall, where they watched their teammates come up short without them.
"I wanted them to be fully embarrassed," Vanderhook said. "I should have put them in the middle right over here, but I think they got the gist of it. They are in the football stadium running right now."
Fullerton junior closer Brett Conine, who earned a save Saturday, played the outfield for the first time in his career and acquitted himself well. The rest of the Titans were not as sharp, committing two costly errors in the decisive fourth inning.
Tulane did not really need the help, pounding out 12 hits. One of them was the first career home run from sophomore shortstop Sal Gozzo, a switch hitter who pulled an offering from left-hander Landon Anderson over the wall down the left-field line.
"Let's not count on that too often, but he does have some strength," Jewett said. "He got a pretty good razzing in the dugout after that. He just put a good swing on it."
The swing for Tulane from Saturday's gut-wrenching loss to Sunday's complete victory was even better.
"This is a huge momentum swing going into the future," Gillies said. "That's a great team over there. It's going to give us a lot of (RPI) points going into regional time."