After an ugly shutout loss to Central Florida on Saturday, Tulane coach David Pierce said he would find out what his team was made of Sunday.
The Green Wave answered by run-ruling an opponent for the first time in six years.
Taking full advantage of a favorable pitching matchup, the Wave blanked UCF for the second time in three days and exploded for six runs in the bottom of the seventh to end the game instantly, winning 10-0 while claiming its first American Athletic Conference series in four tries.
Because of travel considerations, AAC getaway games don’t go past seven innings if one team is ahead by 10 or more. Tulane’s last run-rule victory came all the way back in 2009 when it beat UCF 20-5 in Orlando, Florida, in an eight-inning game that met Conference USA’s 15-run limit for Saturdays.
“We all didn’t know about the rule,” said shortstop Stephen Alemais, whose two-RBI single scored the eighth and ninth runs before Richard Carthon scored the 10th on a wild pitch after a pitching change. “I came into the dugout during the pitching change, and they were kind of talking a little bit about it. We were just trying to scratch as many runs as possible.”
Tulane (24-15, 5-7 AAC) moved out of the conference cellar and into a tie with 19th-ranked UCF (26-15, 5-7) for sixth place, a game ahead of last-place Cincinnati.
It came after the Green Wave was all but lifeless in an 8-0 loss Saturday.
“It was an outstanding effort,” Pierce said of Sunday’s rebound. “Everybody was in the game, everybody was expecting to win the series today. That’s what we have to get to. We have to expect to win the series and expect to win the game.”
The Knights, who have been unable to find a third quality starter all year, replaced slumping Robby Howell (5.51 ERA, four straight losses) with Eric Hepple on Sunday and fared no better.
Hepple (3-2, 6.75 ERA) lasted 2.2 innings, exiting after Alemais, Jake Rogers and Hunter Williams singled in the third as Tulane took a 2-0 lead.
The Wave added runs in the fourth and the sixth before batting around in the seventh. Williams’ double — the only extra-base hit for Tulane on the weekend — preceded four singles and a walk. The Wave reached double digits in runs for the first time since its Conference USA-opening series against Louisiana Tech last year.
Alemais had three hits. Rogers and Williams had two, with Williams running his total for the weekend to five.
“It was a great offensive day,” Williams said. “We just tried to keep everything going, string hits together, take good at-bats and hit good pitches. We need to keep it going.”
Tulane starter Alex Massey (4-2), a Baton Rouge Catholic alum, was sharp when he needed to be, pitching 6.1 scoreless innings despite giving up five hits and walking five.
He got out of jam in the second when Alemais nailed a runner at the plate on a ground ball with one out, then received some help after the Knights loaded the bases to bring up the tying run in the seventh.
Jordan Gross replaced him and induced a shallow fly to right field. Ian Gibaut recorded the final out on a grounder to second.
UCF — which entered the weekend leading the nation in home runs — had not been blanked this season until Tulane did it twice. The Wave tied a school record with its eighth shutout.
“Every team has holes, and I think every team has a way to attack them,” Pierce said. “Our pitchers just did that. They attacked the strike zone the right way, they stayed a pitch ahead of them, and executed pitches. I thought it was a great effort by the entire staff.”
Make that the entire team. Tulane turned a double play, stole two bases and did not commit an error.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Alemais said. “It’s good for our confidence level to do this against a great team like UCF.”