The last time the Tulane baseball team won four straight games against LSU, Green Wave coach Travis Jewett was 6 years old.
Skip Bertman, the man who built LSU into a powerhouse program, was coaching at Miami Dade College for the first of those four contests. Current LSU coach Paul Mainieri was a Tigers player for the middle two games in the streak but had transferred to Miami-Dade North Community College when Tulane whipped LSU 13-5 in their first meeting of 1977.
The next time the Wave takes its fourth in a row from the Tigers could be Tuesday night at Turchin Stadium.
If Tulane (20-21) beats LSU (27-14), it will complete a home-and-home sweep for the second consecutive year, something it never has accomplished. The Wave bookended those four straight victories from 1975-77 with losses in the teams’ first meeting in ’75 and last meeting in ’77.
“Let’s do it,” Jewett said. “It’s a good opportunity in what will be a packed house. I expect our kids to come out and play well.”
More importantly, Tulane can add another marquee win to a résumé that relies on quality rather than quantity at the moment. LSU — which is 13th in the D1Baseball.com RPI ratings — would be the Wave’s 12th RPI-top-50 victim.
Only three teams have more than 11 wins against the RPI top 50 — No. 1 Oregon State, No. 4 Texas Tech and No. 5 Kentucky. If Tulane can bunch together some victories down the stretch, its NCAA at-large hopes will stay alive.
That number already would be 12 if the Wave had not lost a 7-3 lead in the final three innings at Houston on Saturday, committing three infield errors in the eighth and ninth as the Cougars rallied to win 8-7.
The game ultimately cost the Wave its fourth consecutive series victory in the American Athletic Conference when it got run-ruled 12-2 on Sunday, sending it back below .500 after Tulane the break-even mark Friday for the first time since being 1-0.
Never mind the name of the opponent. Tulane wants to take out its frustration from the way the Houston series ended.
“The kids will remain positive, and why wouldn’t they now?” Jewett said. “If we did it when we were 3-12, why wouldn’t we for whatever we’ve done in the last 25. I’m hopeful we’ll take the speed bumps that we went over and welcome these types of situations. Everybody knows one got away from us on Saturday, and we have to respond to it.”
Sam Bjorngjeld (3-2, 5.23 ERA) will start after not pitching over the weekend. Since giving up a wind-aided grand slam at Alex Box Stadium in Tulane’s 7-6 victory on March 28, he has allowed only five earned runs in 17 innings through five appearances.
In what he considered the first real start of his career, Bjorngjeld limited Connecticut to one run in six innings on April 13 after pitching the opening two innings at Nicholls State in a pre-planned Johnny Wholestaff night.
“He’s been very solid,” Jewett said. “He’s taken the ball in whatever role he’s been asked and elevated his game.”
Bjorngjeld will go as long as he effective. Closer Christian Colletti, who earned a save in Baton Rouge with 2.1 innings of relief, also will be available for a team that has found some answers since beating LSU the first time.
Five starters are hitting better than .280, and Tulane’s team average, which was as low as .220 in mid-March, has risen to a season-high .266. Second baseman Jake Willsey, who has four home runs in Tulane’s winning streak against LSU, broke out of a slump with two homers Friday at Houston.
“We’re starting to get a lot of guys that are swinging the bat well at the same time,” Jewett said. “Everybody’s doing their part, and we hope it continues.”