Emerson Gibbs picked a nearly perfect way to win as a starter for the first time in his Tulane baseball career. He flirted with a no-hitter against UNO.
Gibbs, a junior from Jesuit, went 6.2 innings before allowing a hit as the Green Wave won 4-0 on Wednesday night at Turchin Stadium, completing a two-game sweep of the Privateers to take the First NBC Cup. It was his first victory in six career starts, and he set a career high with seven strikeouts.
“My game plan was strike one and first out of every inning,” Gibbs said. “Around the second or third, I found my curveball, and that was working, too. It’s a real good feeling to get this one under my belt. This was big to let the coaches know what I’m capable of.”
Gibbs’ first two seasons at Tulane did not go the way he expected after a stellar high school career that featured an American Legion title and a state championship. His ERA was 5.71 in 2013 and 6.14 in 2014.
Like many of his teammates under new coach David Pierce, he made a strong statement that 2015 will be different for Tulane (8-1). Gibbs faced only one batter more than the minimum through six innings against UNO (4-5). He threw four pitches in the fourth inning, getting three straight ground balls.
He even struck out the side in the seventh despite losing his no-hit bid when designated hitter Jonathan Coco singled to right field.
“That was a fastball, and he’d been locked into my fastball all night,” Gibbs said. “He was seeing it well and he did a good job with that one.”
Gibbs (2-0) exited in the eighth after an error by shortstop Stephen Alemais and a single put runners on first and second base with no outs. Reliever Dan Rankin then got three straights outs to preserve the shutout, leaving Gibbs with an ERA of 0.98 in three appearances.
“He’s very competitive, and his arm is fresh right now,” Pierce said. “We’ve been building him as a starter and spotting him up in relief, and this week was perfect for him. He’s just a complete guy with good stuff.”
UNO hung in a little longer than in a 9-0 loss on Tuesday thanks to a battling performance from Alex Smith (1-1), who gave up a hit to start each of the first four innings but allowed only two runs in that stretch.
The Green Wave gave Gibbs the only run he needed in the second when Lex Kaplan doubled, advanced to third on a fly ball and scored on a sacrifice fly by catcher Jake Rogers.
The same combo worked again in the fourth, when Kaplan doubled to the left field wall and came around on Rogers’ single, and the sixth, when Kaplan reached on an error and eventually scored on Rogers’ squeeze bunt.
Tulane tacked on a fourth run when UNO first baseman Preston Marsh could not handle a throw after third baseman Sam Carriere made a terrific play to field a ground ball from Grant Brown.
With seven RBIs, Rogers has matched his total from all of 2014.
Kaplan, who hit .178 as a freshman last season, is batting .375 and already has more doubles (four) than in all of 2014 (three).
“The pressure’s been taken off of us since last year,” Kaplan said. “If you’d do bad and go 0 for 4, there was a chance you’d not be in the lineup the next day. This year coach (Pierce) believes in us, and we’re having fun.”