Tulane’s baseball players insisted they aren’t panicking.
Despite compiling a 4-7 record over the past three weeks and falling out of not only the national rankings but also the NCAA tournament picture, the Green Wave sees a series of correctable errors as the cause of its scuffling ways.
The first opportunity to reverse the trend comes at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when Nicholls State (18-12-1) comes to Turchin Stadium before the Green Wave (20-12, 2-4 American) departs on a three-game series at conference foe Houston on Friday.
It’s a pivotal week that could shape the rest of Tulane’s season. After a torrid 16-5 start, led by the nation’s best ERA, the Green Wave pitching has fallen back to the pack, and its hitting has yet to arrive on a consistent basis.
But the Green Wave also hasn’t fallen into the type of skid that it hit in 2014, which led to its first losing season since 1993. Last week Tulane produced bookend wins to pull out a respectable 2-2 record on the road, taking a midweek game at UNC-Wilmington before dropping a weekend series to East Carolina.
“We have just kind of put ourselves in a hole (over the previous two weeks), and that kind of turned what was a pretty decent week into feeling like a bad week,” coach David Pierce said. “We are not accepting or satisfied with a 2-2 week but, at the same time, for us to avoid a major issue, that was important and it’s what we have to build on.”
Considering the American’s conference slate is a compact 24 games, Tulane’s 2-4 start in league play is a daunting figure. The Green Wave is tied for last with Cincinnati and Houston and has six weekends left — while trying to pull its RPI up from No. 75, according to WarrenNolan.com.
With at least 13 games against top-45 RPI opponents coming up in the next five weeks, all hope isn’t lost, but each game is starting to gain significance as the regular season meanders into its final month and Tulane’s losses add up.
“When you look at the conference and you see our record, we recognize where we are,” Pierce said. “But we pride ourselves on a consistent approach, and we grind through each of these games and take them as important parts of the whole. There are some important games coming up, and we think we know what it’s going to take to get back on track.”
The first area of concern is on Friday nights, where Tulane’s hitting has been nearly nonexistent. In its past three series-opening games, the Green Wave has combined to score one run in 30 innings against opposing aces, which includes 36 strikeouts.
It has helped anchor Tulane to a .248 team batting average, highlighted by 259 strikeouts, which ranks seventh in the eight-team league for both categories (only better than 8-21 Cincinnati).
“We know we just have to be a bit more patient and relax a little bit and things will start to come together there,” said outfielder John Gandolfo, who is one of just two Tulane players batting over. 300. “We just need to keep in it and keep attacking and eventually we are going to come through.”
Tulane hopes it starts Tuesday against Nicholls, which the Green Wave blanked 5-0 on March 3 as part of an 11-2 start to the season. That night feels like a long time ago, but it’s also a sign of where Tulane can get when it plays to its potential.
“We can get right back into one of those streaks,” junior pitcher Alex Massey said. “We know what it takes to get it done, and we’ve done it before.”