The Tulane and Southeastern Louisiana baseball teams can hit each other with some hellacious numbers entering their rematch at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Turchin Stadium.
The Green Wave (19-8) blasted four home runs and allowed none while splitting two games in frigid Connecticut over the weekend. The Wave raised its home run differential to plus-22 (28 to 6), the second-best ratio in the nation.
“The most impressive part of that on the pitching side is we’re not a power arm team,” coach David Pierce said. “We have solid arms, but our kids are doing a great job of keeping the ball down and pitching ahead. On the hitting side, we’re not dependent on one or two guys. We’ve got pretty good balance.”
Tulane is 13-1 at home, outscoring opponents 110-33 while dominating in a matter reminiscent of its 2005 College World Series team after losing at least 10 games at Turchin in each of the past 10 years. The Wave will play eight of its next nine games at home.
“It’s going to be fun,” Pierce said. “When you go to an environment like we came back from (after Sunday’s game with UConn was snowed out), you really appreciate being at home, and we have played so well at home. Hopefully we will continue that trend.”
Southeastern (22-7) counters with the nation’s lowest ERA (2.15). Since beating Tulane 13-4 on March 2 in Hammond, the Lions ripped off a program-best 14-game winning streak and have outscored their past 16 opponents 155-43.
“We’ve played well all year, and the streak came when I finally figured out how to use our bullpen and put the guys in the right spots to be successful,” coach Matt Riser said. “Our guys have been mature in their approach.”
Junior Jameson Fisher, the Southland Conference’s leading hitter in 2015, is batting a nation’s best .521 this year, including a preposterous .607 in his past 16 games with 34 hits in 56 at-bats. He also has eight homers, helping Southeastern match Tulane’s 28 long balls while the Lions pitching staff has surrendered 11.
“He’s a special player,” Riser said. “You can see when he gets in the box how locked in he is, and he’s done a fantastic job of being selfless. The most impressive part about this stretch is he’s been willing to take his walks, and when they pitch around him, he’s allowed the other guy to come up and do the job.”
Tulane hitters have been named American Athletic Conference Player of the Week three times in the past four weeks, with Hunter Hope getting honored twice and freshman Grant Witherspoon earning the award Monday. Witherspoon was 6-for-12 with two home runs, nine RBIs and seven runs in three games.
“He’s a special kid,” Pierce said. “He’s got great eye-hand coordination. I thought when he came on campus that he was going to have a chance to play a lot as a freshman, and he’s exceeded those expectations already.”
Tulane will start sophomore J.P. France (2-0, 3.67 ERA) for the fifth midweek game in a row. He has allowed six earned runs in that stretch.
Southeastern will use senior Pat Cashman (3-0, 4.91), who struck out eight in 6.2 innings when the Lions beat the Wave in Hammond. He returned from a tendinitis issue to shut out Alcorn State over four innings Wednesday, striking out seven.
When two white-hot teams meet, something has to give. The deciding factor might be defense.
The Lions committed seven errors at Nicholls State on Friday as their school-record winning streak ended in a 6-5 loss.
Tulane — shortstop Stephen Alemais in particular — was brilliant defensively in a 7-1 win at LSU last Tuesday, but the Wave made three errors in a 9-4 defeat at Connecticut on Friday. It had four miscues in its lopsided loss to Southeastern.
“Moving forward, one of our priorities is how we become a better team defense that feeds off quality pitching,” Pierce said. “Championships are won with pitching and defense. We feel very confident with how we’re playing offensively, but we have to pitch and play defense every day.”