There’s something hard to quantify about momentum in baseball.
While winning streaks add energy to a clubhouse and pique the interest of fans, their affect on the next game is relative. When Tulane and UNO renew their cross-town rivalry at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Maestri Field and continuing Wednesday at Turchin Stadium, two coaches with two different perspectives are using momentum in different ways.
Each team is coming off of decisive 4-0 weeks and winning starts after compiling losing records in 2014.
The Privateers (4-3) knocked off Southern Miss before sweeping its first Division I weekend since 2009, defeating Alcorn State, Southern and Grambling at home. Meanwhile, Tulane (6-1) defeated Southeastern Louisiana before sweeping a weekend series with San Francisco.
“It’s huge for us,” said UNO coach Ron Maestri, who returned to the Privateers’ dugout last year. “We came in and this team had won seven games the year before (and compiled an 11-38 record last year) and there was no winning mentality and everyone was almost waiting to get beat. It’s something we are constantly working on and we had to get to some of these guys some confidence, so winning these games means a lot.”
Meanwhile, first-year Tulane coach David Pierce said he’s less concerned with capitalizing on two weeks of victories, preferring instead to handle each day and each game in a compartmentalized fashion. The Green Wave raced out to a 6-1 start last year as well, before finishing 23-29.
So, when Pierce sends starter Patrick Deuster to the mound — matching up against UNO and former Newman standout Daniel Martinez — he’s simply hoping to find consistency.
“I’m just thankful that the effort is there,” Pierce said. “We’re not having any issues there. (Our team) is playing with confidence, and they’re playing until the end. So we always have a chance to win, if we do that, and throw strikes.”
There shouldn’t be a lack of motivation for the midweek series either, with the city’s two Division I programs facing off in their only two games of the season. Maestri readily admitted he was excited to play Green Wave and expressed a desire to see the rivalry thrive, including a preference to play later in the year, hoping to produce better weather than the mid-40s temperatures expected for this week.
“To me, ever since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here for a long time, the Tulane and UNO series is really special,” Maestri said. “It’s a great rivalry and we can go back and forth to each other’s place because we are right in town. They’ve got an outstanding program and we are trying to get back to where we used to be.
“I want to make sure we keep playing each other. I know a lot of teams in the state concern themselves with all of this RPI stuff but I’ve sat as the chair on the (NCAA tournament selection) committee and I can tell you that if you’re a good team, you’re going to make it. So I hope everyone just keeps these in-state series alive and that helps everyone and makes everyone better.”
For his part, Pierce echoed Maestri’s sentiments. He said he expects to play UNO twice per year (one game in each ballpark) and hopes to add two games with UL-Lafayette, who is missing from this year’s Tulane schedule entirely in an attempt to cover the region with quality midweek competition.
At this point, both teams are just trying to carry over that elusive momentum and stay on a winning path.
“We just want to keep it rolling,” Tulane shortsop Stephen Alemais said. “It doesn’t really matter to us who we are playing, we just need to keep believing in ourselves and keep winning games and I think we have the ability to do it.”