Damage always stings a bit more when it’s self-inflicted.
Tulane certainly felt that pain on Friday night, dropping a 12-0 loss to South Florida at Turchin Stadium, saddling itself with a pivotal loss to start a crucial weekend as the Green Wave (29-19, 9-10 American) tries to position itself on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble.
“There’s a lot of frustration right now, but the thing is — all I can tell the guys is that they’re in a position to play for something late in the season,” Tulane coach David Pierce said. “All I can tell them is to relax and have fun and enjoy the moment of playing. They’ve got to overcome the issues that they’re having, whatever they are.”
Tulane’s defense didn’t aid its cause by sending in a trio of Bulls runners without the benefit of an RBI hit. In the first inning, starting pitcher Corey Merrill surrendered a double, then walked a pair of batters around three passed balls allowed by catcher Jake Rogers, allowing a pair of early runs to score.
The two-run inning was all the Bulls needed Friday, but it wasn’t all they got.
South Florida (30-19, 11-8) tacked on an insurance run in the third when, Tulane’s infield became too enamored with a rundown between first and second base, losing track of Levi Borders who came around to score from third while Tulane failed to properly complete the rundown.
“We botched the rundown,” second baseman Jake Willsey said. “It was largely my fault. We still got him at first but the umpire didn’t see it that way.”
The close call on the basepaths ignited frustration in the Green Wave dugout, which had been previously warned for arguing a call in the opening inning. While coach David Pierce ran out to protest the call with the first base umpire, hitting coach Sean Allen was ejected by the home plate umpire for his vocal discontent.
Not only did it remove Allen from the dugout for the remainder of Friday’s contest, it also bans him from the stadium on Saturday due to a conference rule that punishes assistants for an extra game upon ejection.
And considering the way Tulane has hit the past week, it could probably use all of the coaching available to it.
Since beating Houston 3-1 last Friday night, the Green Wave has scored one run in 29 innings and never moved a runner past second base against the Bulls until the ninth. It was the seventh time this season Tulane has been shut out.
“It’s not systemic, it’s not who we are,” Willsey said. “We don’t consider ourselves a light-hitting team, even though we seem that way. But we don’t really care about what other people think about our hitting … We have shown what we are capable of, it’s just about doing it more consistently.”
Despite a pair of scoring opportunities — with runners on first and second and less than two outs — Tulane’s baserunners never moved an inch as the Green Wave botched bunts and struck out repeatedly to quietly kill the threats.
From there, South Florida teed off on the Green Wave bullpen slapping nine consecutive hits off of Jordan Gross in the ninth innings, allowing eight runs and pushing the score from respectable to laughable in the process.
Tulane will try to regroup for Saturday’s 2 p.m. contest still clinging to the fringes of postseason hopes, sending Alex Massey to the mound with a chance to even the series.
“It doesn’t matter if you lose 12-0, 1,000-0 or 1-0,” Willsey said. “You have to come back and win the next two games and we can still get to a regional. It doesn’t matter what the score was today, if we come back and win the next two, win midweek and win the series next week, we are good.”