Fresh off its first road sweep in seven years, the Tulane baseball team is ready for some home cooking.
The Green Wave’s matchup with Southeastern Louisiana at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday will be the opener of a season-high eight-game home stretch at Turchin Stadium — double the previous high. With both teams chasing an at-large regional berth in case they don’t win their conference tournaments, the Wave would love to extend its momentum after winning three in a row at Cincinnati over the weekend.
Tulane (27-16), is 45th in the RPI according to WarrenNolan.com. Southland Conference leader Southeastern (33-12) is 40th.
“It’s a big game,” Tulane coach David Pierce said. “We would like to start the homestand in the right column. (The Lions) are rested. They finished their series on Saturday. It’s a great test of us coming off the road and regrouping and getting started against a good team.”
The Wave’s last weekend sweep away from New Orleans was in May 2008 at East Carolina, a span encompassing 32 series. That also was the last year Tulane reached a regional. The Wave can take a big step toward ending that drought by completing a season sweep of Southeastern.
The only similarity in the first two games was the result. The Wave beat the Lions 5-4 in February in Hammond, rallying for two runs with two outs in the ninth inning, before blasting them 15-2 in March at Turchin Stadium.
“If I’m looking for one word (to explain his success against Southeastern), we’ve been aggressive,” Pierce said. “We’ve had an aggressive approach at home plate and been very good defensively for the most part. And we’ve attacked the strike zone. The key to beating them is attacking the strike zone.”
The pitcher attacking that strike zone won’t be the same as in the first two meetings. Pierce is throwing Emerson Gibbs (3-2, 2.79 ERA) instead of Patrick Duester, who did not allow an earned run in 10 innings during his two starts against the Lions.
Gibbs, who left in the third inning of a rocky start at Cincinnati, has allowed only two earned runs in 38 innings at Turchin Stadium.
“I feel very comfortable with our four to five starting pitchers, but he just happens to be the freshest right now,” Pierce said. “That’s the direction we’re going. I wouldn’t say he’s on a pitch count per say, but we’ll pay attention to him. We’re going to try to win the game.”
Southeastern will counter with regular midweek starter Pat Cashman (3-4, 3.69), a junior right-hander who has given up 12 hits and 10 runs in 3.1 innings against Tulane this year. He did not make it out of the second inning in his start at Turchin Stadium.
Both teams are hot. Tulane has won five of its past six in the American Athletic Conference, climbing from the cellar to within a game of first place. Southeastern is 19-5 since its blowout loss to Tulane in March, one that left coach Matt Riser seething as he railed into his team by the outfield wall in a postgame meeting.
“We talked about consistency and showing up, competing as hard as you possibly can for every pitch,” Riser said. “You never like to lose, but sometimes a loss just stings and sets the tone for the whole year. Since then, the guys have done a good job of being process-oriented instead of result-oriented, and that’s where the consistency has come from.”
Tulane is looking for the same consistency it showed at the plate against Cincinnati. The Wave pounded out 37 hits in the three games, including a season-high 17 on Saturday when it rallied from a 6-0 deficit to win 8-6.
That was the largest comeback for Tulane in 11 years, dating to a 13-8 victory against Charlotte in 2004 after it trailed 7-0.
“It’s just been a testament of this season as a whole,” Pierce said. “We did it a lot early in the year. We had nine singles and no runs at that point (when Cincinnati was winning 6-0), so we kept having good at-bats, and we finally broke it open.”