The first thought that entered Alex Massey’s head when he learned he would need a medical redshirt at Tulane in 2013 was not what you would expect.
He was concerned about his bum throwing shoulder, but he also knew it opened the door for an unforeseen opportunity — playing on the same team with his younger brother for the first time.
Three years later, that bit of inspiration has become a full-blown reality. Alex, a fifth-year senior, and Ross Massey, a freshman, made up two-thirds of the weekend pitching rotation for most of the regular season as Tulane won its first conference championship in 11 years.
“(Getting injured in 2013) maybe wasn’t the way I would have planned it, but I wouldn’t change a thing now,” Alex said. “It’s been great. Everything happens for a reason, and this is definitely one of the highlights of my life.”
The Masseys’ role in the Oxford regional at Ole Miss is unclear, given Tulane’s wealth of starting pitching options. But one thing is certain: The second-seeded Green Wave (39-19) would not have put itself in position to make a run at a super regional without them.
Ross (9-3, 2.40 ERA), who was named Class 5A pitcher of the year at Baton Rouge Catholic in 2015, four years after his brother earned all-state honors, led the American Athletic Conference in victories. Ross started Tulane’s league opener against Connecticut — a rare feat for a freshman—and stayed in that leadoff role for two more weeks before settling in as a Saturday starter.
Alex (6-4, 4.08) was up and down as the Saturday starter in the first half of the season but has excelled since moving to Sundays. He surrendered one earned run in 27 innings during his last four starts away from Turchin Stadium, including an eight-inning, two-hit masterpiece against UCF last Friday in the AAC tournament.
Weekends have turned into an all-Massey affair on the mound, with the brothers accounting for 14 of Tulane’s 22 conference starts.
“It’s definitely been the most special year in baseball I’ve ever been a part of, and we’re not done yet,” Ross said. “Hopefully we can create some more memories.”
Roommates away from the field, Alex and Ross have more than just a familial resemblance. They share many of the same personality traits.
“They are pretty even-keel the whole time, and they’ve got this kind of, for lack of a better word, swagger,” said senior Emerson Gibbs, who will pitch against No. 3 seed Boston College on Friday. “They are both very cool on the field. They are actually very similar. They are super-close.”
Coach David Pierce struggled to find separation, too.
“Alex is Mr. Clean,” he said. “He’s the most organized 22-year-old I’ve ever seen and always prepared. Ross is kind of a no-nonsense kid. They both really are no-nonsense kids that take a lot of pride in their work.”
Although Ross says Alex is more laid-back, their primary difference is in the way they pitch.
Alex, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, is consistently in the low 90s with his fastball, making him the hardest thrower of the weekend rotation. He has struck out 66 batters in 75 innings.
Ross, an inch or two shorter, is the consummate crafty left-hander, issuing only 16 walks in 82.1 innings while using all parts of the strike zone. His team-high 11 hit batsmen is not a sign of control problems but an indication of how much he works the inside part of the plate to keep hitters honest.
“I knew he was going to be good in college because he’s one of the best at locating the fastball, and he’s been like that from the first day he started pitching,” Alex said. “He’s always had a good changeup, he’s been throwing a slider and his location is what really makes him successful.”
The same confidence that allowed Alex to earn Conference USA All-Freshman honors in 2012, when he started eight games and went 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA, enabled Ross to excel in his first year.
His youth and Alex’s early-season struggles won’t keep Pierce from using either of them at crucial moments this weekend, possibly in their normal roles as Saturday and (if necessary) Sunday starters on a staff with multiple candidates.
“I don’t think anything fazes Ross,” Pierce said. “He really thrives on the competition, so he always gives you a gutty performance. And Alex has been tremendous. He’s freed himself up, gotten loose with his arm and is attacking the strike zone with great confidence.”
Alex — who was not recruited by hometown LSU despite pitching on the same high school team as Aaron Nola — chose Tulane over Southern Miss.
Ross visited Louisiana-Lafayette and attended a camp at regional host Ole Miss as a junior but said he knew he would join his brother at Tulane after meeting with Pierce’s staff before his senior year.
Seeing them together, Gibbs regrets he had zero chance to play with his older brother, Brian, who finished his Tulane career all the way back in 1994. The Masseys’ family affair has fulfilled their dreams.
“It’s been everything we wanted and more,” Alex said. “It was something we talked about our whole lives. I know my parents have enjoyed it, our extended family has enjoyed it and on top of that we had a successful season. We’re just having a blast, taking it all in and enjoying every second of it.”