Although it is no certainty, injured outfielder Ty Johnson and first baseman Trevor Jensen may be back in the lineup for the Tulane baseball team (8-10) when it opens a weekend series at Long Beach State (6-11).
The struggling Green Wave needs a spark, and both of them can provide a lift in different ways.
"We're missing them dearly," coach Travis Jewett said. "We're missing Ty's spirit. We're missing Jensen's gold glove at first base. I think Jensen's probably hitting the loudest .200 (actually .231) of anybody in the country. He's just a presence up there, and Ty can hit and run and can do some things like that.
"More than anything, it probably stabilizes two defensive positions. Right now it's musical chairs. I'm trying to put some things together when those two guys are out."
Still, he added he would be judicious with the American Athletic Conference schedule beginning next weekend. The Wave needs to start winning right away but cannot afford to exacerbate the injuries.
"I have to be careful to not push any panic buttons," he said. "We have this part of the season, and then we have the league schedule. I have to stay level-minded to make sure that those guys are ready. It would be ideal to have both of them Friday, but we're not going to push them if anything is in doubt."
The offense has suffered without them. Tulane scored five runs in 20 innings during its midweek losses to Louisiana-Lafayette and Southern Mississippi at Turchin Stadium, which coincided with Johnson's absence because of a hip injury. Batting third in the order, he was hitting .288 with four stolen bases in four attempts.
David Bedgood, who had two hits in 13 at-bats, started at Johnson's normal left field spot in Wednesday's ugly 12-3 loss to Southern Miss.
Jensen has not played since hurting a leg rounding third base on March 7 against Southeastern Louisiana. Luke Glancy, who had two hits in 18 at-bats, started at first base Wednesday.
The injured duo's fielding is a significant factor, too. Johnson has the speed to run down balls in the outfield. Bedgood came up just short when he dove for a blooper down the left field line against Southern Miss, allowing a run to score.
The Golden Eagles scored another run when Glancy, subbing for Jensen at first base, dropped a throw with two outs.
The other question for the weekend is which pitcher will start the middle game. Ross Massey (8.56 ERA) is unlikely to go after struggling in three consecutive Saturday starts. He gave up five runs in 1⅓ innings against Purdue and recorded only out in relief against Southern Miss while giving up a hit, walking a batter and hitting another.
"I want what's good for him, but at the same time we have to do what's best for the team," Jewett said. "When you start somebody on the mound, you want to make sure you get a hold of the game a little bit."
Jewett said he could opt for Ben White, who started the opening Saturday against Wright State and pitched five strong innings in relief against UL-Lafayette on Tuesday, but he likes having him in the bullpen.
Another possibility is Trent Johnson, who has a 1.80 ERA in five innings covering six relief appearances.
Jewett said Friday starter Kaleb Roper, who beat Purdue 1-0 last Friday with eight innings of shutout ball, and Sunday starter Keagan Gillies, who allowed two runs in seven innings of a 6-2 win against the Boilermakers, were entrenched in their roles.