Unlike the array of pitching duels that unfolded in most of Tulane’s previous 29 home games, the 30th was full of offensive sparks.
Unfortunately for the Green Wave (31-20), most of them were bunched up in the top half of the frames as Southern Miss rolled to its 10th consecutive win, on the strength of an 8-4 victory over Tulane at Turchin Stadium.
The Golden Eagles (32-16-1) completed a two-game sweep over its former conference rival, and pounded Green Wave pitching more than any other opponent this season, scoring eight runs in each of the matchups.
On Tuesday, it was starter Tim Yandel who felt most of USM’s hot hitting. After Dylan Burdeaux blasted a first-inning solo homer, Chase Scott and Tim Lynch sprayed doubles to grab a quick 2-0 lead.
Although Tulane was able to match the quick strike with a pair of runs – thanks to RBI singles by Lex Kaplan and Hunter Williams – it wouldn’t be enough to match the torrid Golden Eagles’ bats.
Because three innings later, Yandel would get into a jam he couldn’t escape, allowing four consecutive runners to reach and watching its lead grow to 5-2 before Eric Steel entered from the bullpen. He would only see two batters and failed to record an out before Sam Bjorngjeld entered and allowed Scott to rip a bases-clearing double and build an insurmountable 8-2 lead.
“I think (Yandel) is just fighting some confidence right now,” Tulane coach David Pierce said. “As soon as something bad happens, he’s searching instead of competing. He’ll be back, but he’s going to have to regain some form if he’s going to help us in the tournament. We’ve got confidence in him and we’re going to need him.”
“I don’t think he ever really got settled down. I think he had a couple of hitters where he was successful, and then he didn’t finish some at-bats with some guys and they were successful. Then he tried to do too much.”
It’s not that Tulane didn’t give itself some chances offensively. It simply didn’t maximize upon them.
Tulane swatted 10 hits and left eight runners on base in the first five innings. It also had a run pulled away when Richard Carthon’s bases-loaded double off the center field wall popped over the fence, holding Jake Willsey at third base.
It would be the last rally Tulane would mount. Southern Miss’ bullpen didn’t allow a baserunner for the final four innings, as its defense made a handful of slick plays to cruise to an easy victory and its 10th consecutive midweek victory.
“It was a decent offensive day, but it wasn’t good enough,” Williams said. “We had 10 hits, so we swung the bats pretty well and we would like to carry that over and keep it going into the weekend. I mean, we lost today but we have to just try to turn that part around and get a win in the next one and keep it going.”
Now the Green Wave has to shake off the loss in a hurry, travelling to Memphis for its most pivotal series of the year starting Thursday night against the Tigers. It’s the final regular season weekend and several players said it will probably be the fulcrum between a likely NCAA Tournament berth or needing to pile up wins in the American Athletic Conference tournament.
But, Pierce stated his team didn’t lose focus entering Tuesday night’s game. However, he did stress the important of the weekend in the grand scheme of things rather than a loss in its final midweek foray of the season.
“This is how I look at it, I feel like if we did well here and poorly on the weekend, then I think this game wouldn’t have mattered,” Pierce said. “If we do well in this [weekend] and poorly [tonight], it’s not going to matter. If we lose this one and do well this weekend, I think we’re in good shape.”