One night after coming up empty with the bases loaded in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, Tulane hit the opposite end of the spectrum Wednesday night.
Hunter Hope highlighted a seven-run fifth inning with a prodigious grand slam that sailed high over the wall in left-center field, and the Green Wave held on to beat Southern Miss 10-8 at Turchin Stadium, releasing all of the frustration from a 1-0 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
“I just tried to keep it simple and not do too much,” Hope said of his slam. “The pitch before, (reliever Austin Millet) threw me a fastball and I swung too hard on it. I tried to slow my swing down and let the power of the pitch hit the bat and just hope for the best.”
Tulane (19-19) climbed back to .500 and added another resume-building victory heading into a crucial weekend series at Houston. Southern Miss (29-10), ranked 16th by D1Baseball.com, became the Wave’s seventh victim inside the top 30 of the RPI.
Hope’s blow — Tulane’s first grand slam of the year and the second of his career — was not the only big at-bat with the bases loaded. The pressure already was mounting when Jarret DeHart and Grant Brown struck out in the first inning, giving the Wave a real chance to come up empty with every base occupied for a fourth straight inning.
Freshman shortstop Sal Gozzo ended the drought, driving in two runs with a single and setting the tone for the rest of the night.
“That would have been four straight innings and two games worth, but Sal found the outfield grass,” Tulane coach Travis Jewett said. “He hit a line drive up the middle, and everybody could breathe now. That did relax us. It said we’re here and we can come through in these situations.”
Before Hope’s blast, Millet walked Sal Gozzo to force in a run. Ultimately, the Wave sent 11 to the plate and had six hits, including a pair of book-ending doubles by Lex Kaplan.
But Hope, who went hitless in his other four at-bats, was the difference-maker with his team-leading eighth homer.
“It was a big swing in a big moment,” Jewett said. “That’s why he’s in there. He gives us that threat in that spot in the lineup. Any time he steps up there, he has a chance to leave the yard.”
Brandon Issa (3-0) picked up the win, striking out Taylor Braley with runners on second and third to end the top half of the fifth after the Golden Eagles had rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the score. Braley, who was batting .326 with nine home runs before the game, was the first batter Issa faced after replacing starter Sam Bjorngjeld.
The Golden Eagles’ relievers were much less successful after starter J.C. Keys (2-3) was lifted in the fifth. Coach Scott Berry went to Sean Tweedy, whom he replaced after one pitch when he gave up a tie-breaking single to DeHart, and Millet even though neither of them had pitched eight innings for the year.
Tulane, and Hope, appeared to put the game out of reach quickly against the untested pitchers.
It wasn’t over.
Southern Miss rallied for two runs in the sixth off Issa and three in the eighth off Chase Solesky and Keagan Gillies, forcing the Wave to use reigning American Athletic Conference pitcher of the week Christian Colletti to preserve the victory.
Colletti retired cleanup hitter Matt Wallner, who had hit his 12th home run of the year in the fourth inning, on a bouncer to the mound with a runner on second to end the eighth. He then earned his fifth save, allowing a two-out single in the ninth before left fielder Lex Kaplan tracked down a deep fly ball.
“I was just going right after (Wallner),” Colletti said. “I threw one slider to him but it was fastballs other than that. “This is a big win against a good RPI team and great to go into Houston with.”
The top seven batters in the Wave’s order had at least one hit. DeHart had three with a pair of doubles. Brown continued his recent hot streak with a pair of singles. First baseman Hunter Williams, torrid all year, matched Brown.
The teams combined for 12 pitchers, with Southern Miss using seven and Tulane five in a game that lasted 3½ hours. The Wave staff walked nine while the Golden Eagles issued six free passes.