Tulane baseball coach Travis Jewett promised some changes after a 3-12 start, and the moves worked Wednesday night at Nicholls State.
The next step for the Green Wave (4-12) is building on that performance and sweeping winless Columbia this weekend at Turchin Stadium as it tries to dig itself out of a deep hole.
Jewett replaced senior Hunter Hope at third base with freshman Kody Hoese and inserted freshman Kobi Owen for senior Lex Kaplan in left field. He also gave sophomore Tyler Heinrichs his first career start in right field.
The moves didn't all work — Owen went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts before Kaplan pinch-hit for him — but Heinrichs had two of Tulane’s eight hits, and Hoese made a game-saving play on a ground ball in the bottom of the ninth inning after Nicholls State had rallied for two runs to tie the score at 2.
When the Wave retook the lead on Jarret DeHart’s two-out solo home run in the top of the 10th, Jewett brought in sophomore center fielder Grant Witherspoon to pitch for the first time in his college career.
Witherspoon struck out the side in order for Tulane’s first save since opening day against Air Force, giving the Wave a desperately needed victory that stopped a five-game skid.
To try to start a winning streak, Tulane will go with its regular weekend pitching rotation of Corey Merrill on Friday, J.P. France on Saturday and Ross Massey on Sunday.
Massey had his best outing in a rough sophomore season last Sunday, allowing seven hits and two earned runs in 6.2 innings against San Diego before the bullpen let another one get away. After walking 15 in 10.1 innings through his first three starts, he issued only two free passes, showing glimpses of his freshman form when he went 10-3 with a 2.29 ERA.
“There’s an upward trend there,” Jewett said. “That was really good.”
Despite being 0-9, Columbia does not figure to be a pushover. The Lions have played Florida three times, Mississippi State twice, South Alabama twice and Southern Miss twice, losing by one run once to each of the latter three teams. Until falling 20-5 to Southern Miss on Wednesday, they had not been blown out.
At this point, Tulane does not need to worry about blowing out Columbia.
It just needs to win.