Tulane baseball is making its way back onto the national scene.
After a four-year absence in the rankings, the Green Wave (10-2) have cracked into D1Baseball.com’s No. 25 spot and the NCBWA’s No. 30 position, following a 4-1 week that included a two-game sweep of UNO and a pair of wins against defending Big East champion Creighton.
It is Tulane’s first Top 25 ranking since March 21, 2011, when the Green Wave were tabbed No. 20 after starting the season 17-4 before slumping to a 31-26 finish. The D1Baseball.com rankings are compiled by longtime national college baseball writers Aaron Fitt (formerly of Baseball America) and Kendall Rogers (formerly of Rivals.com and Perfect Game).
First-year Tulane coach David Pierce said an early March that a poll isn’t the best barometer of his team’s progress, it does provide a boost in public perception and a reward for his players, who have already won four games when trailing after the eighth inning this season.
“I think it’s really awesome and well-deserved for our guys, but I don’t think it’s any more than that, though, as far as telling us where we stand,” Pierce said. “I also really do think in the world of recruiting and websites and internet to get your name out there and get some exposure is a positive. So it could be important to us as we move forward.”
But Tulane doesn’t have much time to bask in the glow of its re-discovered prominence. Instead it will have to put its new ranking on the line at 6 p.m. Tuesday when it travels to Thibodaux to face Nichols State.
The Colonels (7-3-1) have already notched a win in their only appearance against a ranked team, beating then-No. 2 LSU 6-3 on Feb. 18 at Alex Box Stadium. Nicholls also won three out of four games this past weekend against Utah of the Pac 12 at Ray E. Didier Field.
“We know they aren’t going to be intimidated by us or the fact that we are winning some games,” Tulane closer Ian Gibaut said. “They’ve already shown they can play with just about anybody, and it doesn’t really matter what we’ve done up to that point, they’re going to play us trying to show everyone they’re the best team in the state, and we’re doing the same.”
After routinely being ranked during the first 15 years of former coach Rick Jones’ tenure at Tulane, not only did the Green Wave baseball program end its absence from the Top 25, it also snapped a four-year drought for all of Tulane’s men’s sports, none of which entered the rankings during that span.
Tulane joins Houston and Central Florida as the three ranked teams from the fledgling American Athletic Conference, which has just eight baseball-playing schools.
“This league has got a chance to be a top-five league every year,” Pierce said. “We have some good teams in a good climate and programs that have won before. There’s no reason this conference won’t be a front-running conference for a long time. And that’s going to help us tremendously, because it means we’ll have to play a lot of good baseball every year.”
While Pierce warned his team about the dangers of getting too excited about an early season ranking, he also admitted that it can play a part in helping Tulane return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.
Considering he led Sam Houston State to three at-large berths in the postseason the past few years, Pierce is familiar with the journey to the tournament.
“I think everything involved is calculated, and it matters when the season ends,” Pierce said. “That includes the win-loss record, obviously the RPI, and I think the rankings make a difference as well. So I think it’s certainly in our favor to be in there now and have the chance to climb. But the next game is always the most important game, because if you lose track of that and you start to shift off of that priority, it can cost you.”