For the seventh time this young season, Tulane found itself in a tied game in the bottom of the ninth inning.
So, the fact Friday night's 3-2 Green Wave win over Xavier went to 10 innings didn't exactly catch Tulane off guard.
Stephen Alemais led off the frame with a single into right field, but watched from first base as Garrett Deschamp and Hunter Hope struck out, leading to Tim Yandel's pinch hit appearance. The Sunday starting pitcher laced a two-out double into the left field corner, scoring a sprinting Alemais all the way from first.
Minutes later Yandel's face was covered in shaving cream and the Green Wave (13-5) was charging into its home clubhouse with another unconventional victory under its belt.
“We can't hit early, but we might have a shot late,” Tulane coach David Pierce joked when asked to describe his team. “How about that?”
It was the Green Wave's fourth win in its last at-bat of the season and put Tulane back on the winning path after it dropped three of its previous four games.
“We love feeding off the competitiveness of these game situations and when we come back,” Yandel said. “We just love the energy, and we hate to lose.”
Ian Gibaut's 2.1 innings of scoreless relief helped lift the Green Wave into position to pull out another heart-stopper and the opportunistic Tulane offense once again came to life when it was needed most.
It was the second time Tulane's offense showed up out of nowhere.
Just when it looked like Tulane's bats were about to leave starter Corey Merrill hanging in the wind again, Jake Willsey took to the air to lift him out of it. Merrill, who went 44 innings without a run of support to start his career, nearly got left on the hook Friday night after allowing two runs in seven innings.
But trailing 2-0 in the seventh, John Gandolfo smacked a two-out single, scoring Jake Rogers easily and prompting third base coach Sean Allen to send Willsey home. The throw beat him by three steps, but Willsey wisely chose the only option left at his disposal.
“I had to go through him or over him,” Willsey said. “I can't go through him, so I chose over him.”
He leapt high into the air, clearing the catcher and the plate, before scrambling back on his knees to touch the dish, bewildering the Xavier defense which stood nearly motionless when the home plate umpire didn't signal a call.
“(The catcher) was busy trying to argue his case,” Willsey said. “He didn't realize I hadn't touched home plate so I went back, touched it and ran back to the dugout.”
Willsey's jump and roll tied the score and gave Tulane its first jolt of the game.
“I turned around,. and I lost my mind I was screaming from the dugout,” Yandel said. “That's something you only see in movies...We just lost it in the dugout and I think that it needs to be on SportsCenter. It was just awesome.”
It was a long way from the doldrums of trailing, scoreless baseball Tulane had played up to that point.
Merrill found himself in trouble early, surrendering a pair of Xavier singles before Brian Breuning laced an RBI double into the right-center field gap to push the Musketeers out to a 1-0 lead before the Green Wave could record a second out.
From there, Tulane's ace settled in, working through four scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing just two total baserunners. But the Musketeers came back to life in the sixth, drawing a walk prior to Andre Jernigan's frozen rope into left field that drove home Derek Hasenbeck.
A pair of Tulane errors — one by Hunter Williams at first and one by Alemais at shortstop — allowed Xavier to nearly break the game open in the seventh, but third baseman Hunter Hope kept Tulane in striking distance by snagging a grounder with his bare hand, then beating Hasenback to the bag.
It set up the Green Wave's dramatic seventh.
Tulane will send Emerson Gibbs to the mound at 2 p.m. Saturday for his first weekend start of the season, replacing Alex Massey, who started while Tulane slumped to 2-2.
“I don't know if I can really explain it right now,” Pierce said when asked why his team is so productive late in games. “I'm just glad we are trying to play the entire game.”