The Tulane baseball team struggled early with runners in scoring position on Tuesday night.
If there was ever a time to get away with those issues, this was it.
Josh Bates threw five hitless innings, four relievers limited Lamar to one the rest of the way and Grant Witherspoon remained white hot as the Green Wave bounced back from a lost weekend at ninth-ranked Ole Miss, winning 7-1 at Turchin Stadium.
The Cardinals (3-6), who have been moribund at the plate, went 13 2/3 innings without a hit from a leadoff single in the 10th inning of the first game of a doubleheader against Hofstra on Sunday until a two-out, infield single in the sixth against Tulane (4-3). Lamar entered with a .206 batting average, scoring three or fewer runs in seven of its first eight games.
Bates (1-0), a freshman whose lone appearance was a one-out stint in the season opener against Wright State, allowed only one base runner through the first four innings.
"I was pretty pumped up," he said. "I had a little jitters before the game, which is normal, but I had good control over my pitches. I was able to control my off speeds and my fastball."
Early on, it looked like it might be a frustrating night for the Wave. Matt Rowland and Trevor Jensen failed to produce with a runner on third in the first inning. Sal Gozzo and Jonathon Artigues struck out in the second, leaving runners on second and third.
Tulane left at least one runner on base in each of the first six innings but never was in any real trouble. Bates recorded a strikeout to finish the fifth after plunking one batter and walking another in what turned out to Lamar's biggest threat.
"We felt good about him coming into this one, and he did just what we recruited," coach Travis Jewett said. "He's had a lot of high school success. He pitched in a really good summer program. We knew he was capable."
Tulane scored its initial run without having to swing when Lamar pitcher Jason Blanchard (0-1) threw wildly to first on a pickoff attempt in the third inning, allowing Ty Johnson to come home easily from third.
Just about every time Witherspoon swung, something good happened. Topping a three-hit performance against Ole Miss on Sunday, he matched his career high with four hits, including an RBI triple to deep right-center field in the sixth.
"I feel like I had been over-swinging a bit and trying to pull the ball over the fence too much," he said. "Yesterday I worked on some stuff in the cage, calmed it down a bit and am getting back to my old self."
This, from a guy who entered the night with a.318 batting average.
"He was talking to me about how he really wasn't happy where his hands were," Jewett said. "He went back and saw some video of what it was like when he felt good, so that's just a smart player who has a lot of investment in his success. He was great tonight."
The Wave, which had only two singles through four innings, found holes all over the place against Lamar's relievers after chasing left-handed starter Jason Blanchard, finishing with a season-high 13 hits. Witherspoon's triple ended a stretch of six hits in nine batters, including Artigues' double right before Witherspoon's shot.
The only drama in the late innings was whether Tulane would get its first shutout since March 17 a year ago against Columbia.
It did not happen. Junior college transfer Ryan Green, the Wave's fourth pitcher, walked a batter in the eighth, then threw two wild pitches before balking him home to make the score 4-1.
Tulane responded with three runs in the bottom of the eighth, including Hoese's two-out double.
By then, the missed opportunities were ancient history.
"We might have had a little bit of that problem throughout (the first two weeks), but I'm not going to call it a problem right now," Jewett said. "I'm looking at it more on the positive light. You can look at (12) left on base, but there are some positives to it, too. Just the fact that we can put people on base and be a threat, we'll do some things."
The only real downer for the Wave was the absence of sophomore outfielder Kobi Owen, who suffered a season-ending elbow injury that will require surgery while throwing in warm-ups on Saturday before the resumption of a suspended game against Ole Miss.
Tyler Heinrichs started in right field against Lamar, with Ty Johnson returning to left field, where he opened the season, but Tulane will miss Owen.
"It's disappointing," Jewett said. "Kobi has such a great spirit. I'm hoping he can stay engaged with the team because he'll need us and we certainly need him around. I told the guys we'll be there for him, but there has to be a next man up."
The two teams meet again Wednesday at 4 p.m.