Stephen Alemais, Tulane close out season full of growing pains _lowres

Advocate file photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Tulane freshman shortstop Stephen Alemais is hitting .224 this season.

Nothing was more symbolic of the Tulane baseball team’s recent turnaround than the bunt play in the sixth inning against Southern Miss on Sunday.

With the Green Wave ahead 2-0, Hunter Hope headed home from third base on the pitch, and Richard Carthon tapped the ball down the first-base line. Hope scored easily on the suicide squeeze despite pitcher Bradley Roney’s attempt to throw him out at the plate.

The insurance run made Tulane feel much more secure when Southern Miss put runners on second and third with two outs in the ninth inning. It was the type of execution the Wave lacked when it stumbled through an 8-22 stretch from the beginning of March to a 6-0 loss to LSU on April 22.

“Those are the little things that matter so much when you look at the scoreboard at the end of the game,” interim coach Jake Gautreau said. “We are just trying to put pressure on the defense and find a way to manufacture runs, however we can make that happen.

“Richard Carthon laid down a really nice safety squeeze there, which led to a huge run for us. That gave us a lot of momentum, and that’s what we are going to continue to be about. We’re going to be aggressive in different ways than you would expect, but whatever it takes to score runs and win ballgames.”

Tulane (20-25), which has won five of its past seven, will get another chance to demonstrate its newfound momentum against Southeastern Louisiana (29-20) on Tuesday night at Turchin Stadium.

Southeastern handled Tulane easily in their first two meetings this year, winning 6-3 in New Orleans on March 18 and 5-1 in Hammond on April 9. The Lions never have beaten the Green Wave three times in the same season.

Tulane raised its batting average from .222 to .231 in the past two weeks. Although that total still ranks among the bottom 12 nationally, several freshmen are on hot streaks.

Outfielder Grant Brown, who played sparingly for much of the year, is 9-for-19 in that span, rocketing to a team-best .294 average for the season. Shortstop Stephen Alemais, who briefly lost his starting job near the end of Tulane’s long slump, is hitting .421 in the same period, while catcher Jake Rogers is batting .318.

Throw in junior-college transfer Garrett Deschamp, who has 10 hits in the past seven games, and Southeastern is facing a different team than the one it saw in Hammond last month.

“We have a lot of confidence at the plate, and we have to keep coming out to win every day,” Rogers said. “We want to come out (against Southeastern) and win and then come out next weekend and go beat Alabama-Birmingham (on the road).”

Alex Massey (2-4), who had a career-high seven strikeouts as Tulane beat Nicholls State 7-1 last Tuesday, will oppose Southeastern’s Kyle Keller (3-2) on the mound. Keller went seven innings and allowed three hits when the Lions beat the Green Wave in Hammond.

Southeastern won two of three from Nicholls State over the weekend, stopping a six-game slide.

The Lions never trailed in their earlier meetings with Tulane, holding the Wave scoreless for the first five innings of both. On Saturday and Sunday against Southern Miss, though, Tulane led 4-0 and 2-0 after five innings.

“Scoring runs early is big for this club,” Gautreau said. “If we can get on the board early and find ways to manufacture runs, we end up relaxing and playing good baseball.”