OXFORD, Miss. — If Tulane needed any extra motivation for its elimination game against Ole Miss on Saturday, someone in the stands behind left field provided it.
After a ball went into the bleachers during batting practice, it was thrown back onto the field with the following words scribbled in blue: “I took my Chevy to the level but the levee was gone … Katrina 06.”
Tulane baseball sports information director Curtis Akey tweeted a picture of the baseball in the early innings.
In addition to being wrong by a year on when the hurricane hit, the bastardization of the Don McLean song “American Pie” was offensive to Green Wave designated hitter Jeremy Montalbano among others.
Montalbano’s family had to move from Destrehan to Katy, Texas after Katrina destroyed the building where Montalbano’s father worked.
The Wave put the offensive message out of their minds pretty quickly before extending their season and ending the Rebels’ on Jake Rogers’s two-run home run in the top of the ninth in front of 9,467 fans at Swayze Field.
First baseman Hunter Williams, who homered in his first two at-bats, said he did not take the action of one unidentified person as representative of the entire Ole Miss fan base.
“It maybe was a little bit (of motivation), but you can’t go in there worried about that kind of stuff,” he said. “You’ve got fans, it’s a hostile environment and a packed crowd. You’ve got to love that. It just gives you a little more edge to play and try to keep those guys quiet and shut them down a little bit. Whether it’s good or bad energy, we still feed off of it.”
The Wave will have to find something else to feed off as long as it stays alive in the regional. The stadium was nearly deserted for the winners’ bracket game on Saturday evening between Utah and Boston College.
Tulane freshman left fielder Grant Witherspoon was ejected in the third inning, and by NCAA rules, he will serve an automatic one-game suspension Sunday.
After fouling out to the first baseman, Witherspoon bumped into Ole Miss pitcher David Parkinson as Parkinson covered first base to double off Jake Rogers, who had tried to steal second and was nowhere close to getting back. The first-base umpire threw Witherspoon out immediately.
Witherspoon, whose normal spot is center field, entered with a .266 average and three home runs.
Richard Carthon replaced him in left field, going 1 for 3 at the plate.
Frustration times two
For Ole Miss, which went to the College World Series for the first time in 42 years in 2014, the early elimination was doubly painful. The Rebels also went two-and-out last year, falling 3-1 to Maryland and 2-1 to CSU Bakersfield in the Los Angeles Regional.
That’s four defeats by a total of five runs.
When right fielder Ryan Olenek was thrown out at first to end Friday night’s 6-5 loss to Utah, he spiked his helmet in frustration. When left fielder Kyle Watson was forced out at second to finish Saturday’s game, he stayed on his hands and knees as the Green Wave began celebrating.
“Our goal was to go to Omaha,” Rebels junior third baseman Colby Bortles said before pausing to compose himself in the postgame interview room. “It sucks.”
Tulane has hit 63 home runs and allowed 21, tripling its opponents’ total. ... The Wave has gone 16 consecutive regionals without going 0-2. The last time it happened was 1987 at UNO.