Tulane remained in its season-long hitting funk for 11 innings on Friday night at Turchin Stadium. For once, though, the Green Wave did not care.
Hunter Hope crushed a grand slam high over the wall in left field as Tulane beat Wichita State 5-1 in 12 innings. The Wave, which had been scoreless for 28 consecutive innings to that point, erupted for five runs after the Shockers went ahead 1-0 in the top of the 12th.
“I laid off a couple of curveballs, and I just knew they were coming with a fastball,” Hope said. “Honestly I didn’t feel it off the bat. It was just right there. It was perfect.”
The Green Wave (16-23) won for only the third time in 15 games. Wichita State (21-20) lost for the 10th time in 15 outings, committing four errors along the way but not paying for any of them until Tulane’s unlikely explosion in the 12th.
Hope’s blast came after shortstop Stephen Alemais tied the game with an RBI single through the left side, scoring Richard Carthon from third. The ball was closer to the top of the lights than the top of the wall as it sailed out of Turchin Stadium — Tulane’s first grand slam of the year, its ninth home run, Hope’s third and his first since March 7 against California.
“I turned around and looked at coach (Chad) Sutter and was giving him knuckles,” interim coach Jake Gautreau said. “But he left me hanging because he was watching the flight of the ball and I think he was actually in shock. When it landed, he was still staring out there.”
Wichita State scored the game’s first run in the top of the 12th on a disputed play at the plate. Micah Green tried to score from third on a wild pitch from Emerson Gibbs and was ruled safe as Gibbs applied the tag, prompting catcher Jake Rogers to spike his mask as Gautreau raced out to protest the call.
Green led off the 12 with a double down the right field line and went to third on a bunt single by Dayne Parker. Tulane gave itself a chance to get out of the inning when Alemais, a late-inning substitution after being benched for the LSU game, fielded a high hopper and tagged Parker out before throwing to first for a double play while Green inexplicably never left third base.
Then came Gibbs’ wild pitch, but Rogers reached it quickly and made the play very close with his flip to Gibbs at home.
Gibbs (2-2) got the win. Ray Ashford (1-3) took the loss for Wichita State.
Before Hope’s game-winner, Alemais took the pressure off the Wave by finally ending the scoring drought.
“After they scored that one run, we said we can’t lose this game,” Alemais said. “We’ve been losing too many games, and there was nothing else to lose. We were going to play our heart out, and that’s what happened.”
Tulane’s Tim Yandel pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the top of the ninth, preserving the scoreless game.
The Wave appeared to be in deep trouble when Yandel walked the leadoff batter, drew first baseman Bowen Woodson off the bag with an errant throw on a bunt and gave up a fluke infield single that appeared to hit Green’s bat twice.
No problem. Hope threw home for a forceout before starting a nifty inning-ending 5-2-3 double play with a quick reaction on another grounder.
Tulane runners reached third base four times before the 12th inning outburst but could not make it the extra 90 feet.
The best chances came in the bottom of the eighth and ninth.
Hunter Williams swung and missed at three straight sliders in the ninth before Bowen Woodson flew out to shallow right field after Tulane loaded the bases with one out. Garrett Deschamp and Andrew Garner began the inning with hard singles, advancing to third on a sacrifice by Hope.
Tyler Wilson led off the eighth with a double down the left-field line. Grant Brown pinch ran for him and advanced to third on a sacrifice, but Carthon hit a soft liner to short and Willsey grounded out to shortstop to end the threat.
Tulane shut down Wichita State cleanup hitter Casey Gillaspie, who entered with a .414 average but went 0 for 5 against the Green Wave’s unusual infield shift. Deschamp, the starting shortstop, stood almost directly behind second base and fielded two hard-hit grounders that went right at him.
“We had a pretty nice little scouting report on him,” Gautreau said. “We wanted to shrink the field as much as we could, and tonight it worked out our way.”
Neither starting pitcher was around for the decision. Tulane freshman Corey Merrill allowed four hits in seven innings, while Wichita State’s A.J. Ladwig lasted nine innings, yielding five hits and striking out nine.