After a team meeting, Stephen Alemais and Tulane did not need much time to take out all of their recent hitting frustrations on Southern Miss.
Alemais doubled to lead off the bottom of the first inning, Hunter Williams followed with three-RBI double into the gap and Hunter Hope hit a two-run homer in the second as the Green Wave erupted for six quick runs, beating Southern Miss 12-0 on Tuesday night at Turchin Stadium.
Coming off a 1-3 week, Tulane (23-13) needed this type of win badly and played like it. The Wave had not scored more than five runs in a game since April 5 and was hitting .220 in its past 10.
Conference USA co-leader Southern Miss (27-11), which entered with an RPI of 20, has given up 24 runs to Tulane in two meetings. The Wave improved to 6-2 against teams in the top 50 of the RPI, boosting its NCAA regional résumé.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit the last couple of weeks,” Alemais said. “It’s huge for us just to get going. We had a team meeting, just players only, before this game and talked about our flaws and what we needed to work on, and obviously something went right.”
Everything went wrong for soft-tossing Southern Miss freshman lefty Stevie Powers (0-1), who pitched four scoreless innings at Ole Miss last Tuesday.
After Alemais’ double, he walked Hope and Jeremy Montalbano and plunked Lex Kaplan in the back to force in Tulane’s first run. Williams then unloaded on a rare pitch that went over the plate, clearing the bases with a shot to the gap in right-center.
“The biggest thing about the first inning is how patient we were,” coach David Pierce said. “We were very disciplined, and that was the key.”
Grant Witherspoon walked with two outs in the second inning before Hope skied one over the wall in left-center. It was his 10th home run of the year as he became the first Tulane player to reach double digits since Rob Segedin hit 14 in 2010.
J.P. France (3-1) allowed one hit and struck out seven in six innings, rebounding from back-to-back rocky outings against Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana-Lafayette while returning to the form he exhibited in a victory at LSU on March 29.
It could have been zero hits. Southern Miss’ Tom Lynch hit lazy pop-up to shallow right landed in between Lex Kaplan and second baseman Jake Willsey in the first.
“It’s really calming as a pitcher when you score four runs in the first inning,” France said. “You know you can just throw strikes. I hit my spots today and everything was working.”
Southern Miss had scored at least two runs in every game this year, blasting 44 home runs. The Golden Eagles did not get a runner past second base Tuesday night as Tulane tied a school record set last year with its ninth shutout.
The rout could have been even more lopsided. The Wave left 11 runners on base in the first six innings, failing to take full advantage of the 12 walks issues by seven Golden Eagles pitchers. Hope struck out with the bases loaded in the fifth and six innings.
It didn’t matter. The Wave batted around in the sixth, getting a two-run bloop double from Alemais, three walks and even a base runner on a strikeout when Williams reached first after swinging at a wild pitch.
That was one of several anomalies in an unusual game.
Witherspoon tied a school record with four walks and did not have an official at-bat in five plate appearances, sacrificing his first time up.
Twice, Southern Miss replaced pitchers in the middle of a Montalbano at-bat.
Kaplan stole second and third with no throw attempt on consecutive pitches in the sixth.
Tulane recorded an out that looked like a routine 4-6 fielder’s choice, except this time it was another blooper that eluded second baseman Jake Willsey’s glove on the outfield turf. He picked up the ball and threw to Alemais for the force-out.
The difference in Alemais was dramatic enough by itself. He went 1 for 11 last weekend against Cincinnati, and Pierce benched him after he threw his helmet in frustration when he grounded into a double play.
Against Southern Miss, he ranged far to his left, made a pirouette and threw out the first batter. He finished with two hits, two runs and two RBIs.
“A lot of us have been putting pressure on ourselves lately, getting ourselves out,” Alemais said. “We have the ability and know we have the talent. We just have to be selective and be aggressive.”
Kaplan scored three times. Williams drove in four runs.
“It was good to jump out to a lead against those guys and keep adding on,” Williams said. “They are a really good team, and we were able to sit on and hold it.”