Lewis: Tulane’s win over Lehigh was just what the program needed _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Tulane right fielder Lex Kaplan (6) celebrates in the dugout after being walked in by Lehigh pitcher Connor Donovan during the Baton Rouge regional on Saturday at Alex Box Stadium.

When you haven’t won an NCAA tournament game in seven years and 364 days, what’s a little 3-hour, 16-minute rain delay?

Tulane sat out Saturday’s downpour in the LSU players’ lounge Alex Box Stadium (all of that purple and gold must have been hard to stomach), reasonably assured that their 8-3 lead against Lehigh in the bottom of the fifth was going to hold up.

Which it did, and more, 15-3.

That means the Green Wave’s season lasts for at least another day, starting with the elimination game against UNC Wilmington, which lost 2-0 to LSU in a game ended at 1:09 a.m. Sunday.

And that’s good for Tulane.

Not so much because the Wave will have much of a rest advantage after Saturday’s drawn-out day at the ballpark.

But for the Wave to have played its way into its first postseason since 2008 and gone two-and-out — especially in the home of the school Tulane fans at least consider their archrival and in which they’d never won — would have been a bummer of an ending and another buzz kill for an athletic program that never seems to capitalize on opportunities to follow up when good things happen.

As it was, Friday’s 10-1 loss to UNC Wilmington was bad enough.

From making the first out of the game at third base to getting shelled for seven runs in the fourth inning, the night was a total disaster for a team that did not look ready to compete on the NCAA stage.

And the hangover carried over in the first inning Saturday when Lehigh — which, with its 25-31 record and No. 232 RPI, was in the bottom four of tournament teams — put up three runs in the top of the first.

Three hits off starting pitcher Corey Merrill, a dropped fly ball by right fielder Lex Kaplan and a missed tag at the plate by catcher Jake Rogers were not good signs.

Neither was leaving the bases loaded in the first and second innings.

For those keeping count, that meant Tulane was eventually outscored 13-1 in 12 tournament innings.

But Merrill settled down, allowing no hits and walking none through his next four innings.

And in the fourth, the Wave scored seven runs, matching their most productive inning of the season.

They did largely with the small ball first-year coach David Pierce employs out of necessity out of his light-hitting team.

With Rogers and Richard Carthon aboard, Pierce had Stephen Alemans, his only .300 hitter, bunt. That’s really small ball.

But Lehigh pitcher Nick Stephens couldn’t make the play and the Wave put up a seven-spot with the aid of only one extra-base hit — Rogers’ double that was his second hit of the inning.

The runs kept coming after the rain finally stopped. In fact, Tulane’s margin of victory against the Mountain Hawks was five runs greater than LSU’s the day before.

Take that, Tigers!

And now the Wave plays on.

Odds are against them winning twice to for a title showdown Monday.

But in that last regional, Tulane won its first two games and was in the same position as Saturday’s late winner will be Sunday — one victory away from the super regional.

However, back in 2008, host Florida State pounded the Wave 17-8 on Sunday and 16-7 and Monday, not only putting a shocking finish to the season but starting the tournament drought that lasted until this year.

So stranger things have happened.

And if Tulane doesn’t get any farhter, it’s been a turnaround year for a program that had seen better days — and should have even better ones ahead.

“There’s nothing that can make this season disappointing,” senior second baseman Garrett Deschamp said. “But we’re not satisfied just to get to the regional, or even just to get to Sunday.

“We’re just going to go out and see what we can do.”