This was the type of test that Tulane baseball coach David Pierce wanted his team to see.
It was a white-knuckle, high-tension series that had a little bit of everything.
There was a benches-clearing incident Saturday, accusations of Creighton relaying pitch velocities Sunday and unending shouting from the Blue Jays dugout, resulting in a series that several Tulane players described as the most heated in their career. And it appeared the Green Wave were headed for a failing grade on Pierce’s test, standing two outs away from allowing the Blue Jays to fly home with a series win.
Instead, Tulane rediscovered its flair for the dramatic, scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth inning to win 3-2 at Turchin Stadium, capping its fifth final-inning victory of the young season. Hunter Hope’s screaming line drive off the left-field wall brought home Tyler Wilson, setting off a frenzy on the basepaths — complete with a dogpile and more jawing between the teams.
In the end, Pierce and coach Ed Servais of Creighton (4-3) mutually agreed to not have the teams shake hands, hoping to avoid another incident. Instead, it ignited a celebration in the clubhouse for Tulane (10-2).
“This was a huge series, and we all wanted this win really badly,” Hope said. “You knew it this morning when everyone came into the clubhouse. Everyone wanted this one. The first person I saw (after the game-winning hit) was (outfielder) Lex Kaplan, and when I saw him running up to me, I knew it was going to be crazy.”
The comeback started innocently enough, when catcher Cameron Burns drew a one-out walk and Pierce sent freshman Nico Symington out to pinch-run and Tyler Wilson to pinch-hit. The senior smashed a single into the left-center gap, sending Symington galloping around the basepaths, eventually scoring thanks to Daniel Woodrow’s misplay in center.
“I knew it wasn’t going to get caught,” Symington said. “I was just keeping an eye on my third-base coach (Sean Allen), and he was waving me. I thought he would hold me up, but I guess he bobbled it or something and I just heard my dugout going crazy, so I just kept moving.”
After John Gandolfo popped up for the second out, Creighton intentionally walked Stephen Alemais before Garrett Deschamp was plunked on a full-count pitch, setting up Hope with the bases loaded for his game-winning dramatics.
“This is one of the best wins I’ve ever been a part of,” Symington said.
It was nearly one of Tulane’s most frustrating losses.
Despite jumping to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Tulane found itself unable to add anything to it before the Blue Jays eventually tied the score in the fifth.
That’s what closer Ian Gibaut faced when he entered in the seventh — before pitching himself into trouble an inning later. Gibaut walked a pair of Blue Jays around his fielding error, loading the bases with one out.
After racking up a strikeout, Gibaut nearly escaped the jam by getting Brett Murray to ground the ball weakly toward the mound. But the angle played tricks on the junior pitcher, who ranged over to glove it, but instead the ball trickled away into an unoccupied portion of the infield, providing enough time for Murray to reach base and Woodson to score the go-ahead run.
But late deficits haven’t fazed Tulane this season. After losing all 26 of its games when trailing after eight innings a year ago, this year’s version of the Green Wave seems to thrive on adversity. On Sunday, Tulane ran its record to 4-1 when trailing after eight innings; the Wave has scored 13 ninth-inning runs in nine games.
“This is a character check for us, and we played it all the way to the end the right way,” Pierce said. “I was just proud of them for just hanging in there. Not everything went our direction, and we just hung in there and got the win.”
The series win vaults Tulane to No. 21 in WarrenNolan.com’s RPI ratings and could push the Green Wave into the national rankings for the first time since 2011 before it travels to Nichols State at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“It feels good right now, and we’re definitely going to enjoy it today,” Gibaut said. “These are the kinds of wins that make you know that this could be real, what we have going here. I never doubted our guys for a second when we got behind. Now we just need to keep it going.”