CLEARWATER, Fla. — Breakfast, as usual, wasn’t mandatory Wednesday morning for Tulane.
Most Green Wave players slept in. An off-day workout was pushed back to early afternoon to allow them to spend a few waking hours off the clay and on the Gulf shore sand. After four hectic, high-stakes games in five days, they needed at least a partial day at the beach.
“It felt really good,” said fourth-year junior Jeremy Montalbano, who didn’t rise until 10:30 local time. “I’m on Eastern time so it’s really like 9:30 back home, but I didn’t have to set the alarm or anything, and the hotel served breakfast ’til 11:30 so it was pretty nice.”
Business resumes Thursday. When the top-seeded Green Wave (38-17) takes Bright House Field for a 2 p.m. contest against No. 5 Houston, coaches will be refreshed, players will be recharged, and perhaps most importantly, the pitching staff will be reset.
That pitcing staff was taxed so heavily in last weekend’s three-game, 31-inning series at Houston, coach David Pierce leaned on an assortment of spare parts to get through Tuesday night’s 4-3 opening-round triumph against eighth-seeded UCF. Of the six pitchers used, only two had worked more than 30 innings all year.
But the ensemble effort prevailed.
Collectively, the group scattered eight hits and allowed three earned runs. Redshirt senior starter Trevor Simms, who previously had thrown 142?3 innings all year, typified the cumulative grittiness by allowing only two hits in 21?3 scoreless innings.
“(Pierce) told me I had a certain pitch count and he said, ‘Empty your tank, give it all you got. If that’s one inning, if that’s five innings, just empty the tank,’ ” Simms said. “I would’ve liked to have been able to command it a little bit better, but I ended up giving the team what we needed to get the ‘W’ as a whole.”
Now, arguably no team in this field is better suited for a lengthy tournament run than Tulane.
Senior right-hander Emerson Gibbs (6-2, 2.24 ERA) has had five days’ rest since working nearly eight innings in Friday’s 13-inning, 3-2 loss to the Cougars.
He’ll start Thursday.
Moreover, fellow right-handers J.P. France (6-2, 2.93) and Alex Massey (5-4. 4.57) haven’t thrown since teaming for an eight-hitter in Saturday’s rain-delayed 4-3 win at Houston that clinched the AAC regular season title for the Green Wave.
Freshman lefty Ross Massey (9-3, 2.40) tossed only two-thirds of an inning in relief Tuesday.
And if they can defeat Houston for the third time in seven days, the Green Wave get another day off Friday.
“I think it sets up pretty well,” Simms said. “I think we’re going to be ready to go. I’m pretty excited to see how the team’s going to go out. Of course, winning (Thursday) is going be a lot better for us. I guess it’s easier to stay on top than have to claw up from the bottom.”