Comfort is critical.
Tulane baseball players credit that attribute repeatedly when explaining their 8-1 start and current six-game winning streak. Considering the Green Wave’s starting pitchers have allowed eight earned runs in nine games, there’s never been a moment when Tulane felt it was out of contention.
That’s how it managed a weekend sweep despite scoring one run during a 17-inning stretch and waiting until the ninth inning to score on consecutive days. Despite those hitting inconsistencies, Tulane notched three wins over San Francisco, two over UNO and one over Southeastern Louisiana in the past week.
“It’s just easier to play when you’re relaxed and feel like you’re never out of the game,” sophomore outfielder Lex Kaplan said. “When you look at what our pitching staff is doing right now, it lifts the whole team. They are competing so hard and keep getting through scoreless innings, and it’s really been the key to everything we’re doing.
“It’s just nice to know that those guys have our back and even when things aren’t going well at the plate, we can count on them to keep everything going.”
With reigning Big East champion Creighton coming to Turchin Stadium for a three-game series — it begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday and continues Saturday and Sunday afternoon — the onus on Tulane’s starters hasn’t changed. Ace Corey Merrill (0-0, 1.74) will start the series, preceding Alex Massey (0-0, 3.18) and Tim Yandel (1-0, 0.68), with a real opportunity to vault the Green Wave into the Top 25 of a major poll for the first time since March 21, 2011.
The Green Wave received votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll the past two weeks and is named among “others considered” by D1Baseball.com, putting them on the fringe of being officially ranked if it can knock off a fairly strong RPI opponent in Creighton (4-1, No. 66 RPI) this weekend.
But all of that is secondary to the task Tulane faces this weekend, said first-year coach David Pierce, who added his team has far greater worries than polls and power rankings.
“I’m not concerned about this team looking ahead like that because they’re not good enough to do that,” Pierce said. “I think they realize it’s a day-to-day grind and that’s where they have to focus. We are way too far away from anything like that to be looking ahead to anything or past anyone.”
A smaller goal would be to earn some run support for Tulane’s starters, particularly Merrill. The Green Wave hasn’t scored a run for Merrill in 43 consecutive innings, contributing to his 0-5 career record.
Although the Tulane sophomore said he’s unconcerned about thtat odd and prolonged streak, Pierce said it shows Merrill’s toughness that the frustration hasn’t boiled over.
“It’s unbelievable,” Kaplan said. “It’s almost become a joke in the clubhouse, but we really want to snap that for him and help him out finally.”
It’s all just part of the Green Wave seeking some comfort.
After posting consecutive shutout wins over the Privateers on Tuesday (9-0) and Wednesday (4-0), Tulane played with some breathing room for the first time this season, and shortstop Stephen Alemais said he could feel some confidence starting to bubble at the plate.
“It’s definitely contagious, and that can kind of go in both directions,” Alemais said. “When things aren’t going well, it’s hard to break a pitcher out of his rhythm, but when things are going well, everything seems to start clicking much easier.
“I think it was important to get out and play the way we did this week and score some runs, because this is an important series coming up where we want out pitchers to be able to pitch with a lead, and then we can just keep our confidence up and keep rolling.”