Asked Saturday whether a loss to Lehigh in the NCAA tournament’s Baton Rouge regional would have soured his thoughts on this season, Tulane senior infielder Garrett Deschamp said no way.
He reiterated that thought after UNC-Wilmington eliminated the Green Wave 8-2 on Sunday night. Tulane never was in the game following a six-run third inning for the Seahawks, but the Wave came too far to forget about what happened before then.
“It’s definitely a dream come true getting to a regional and just having (had) the chance to get to Omaha,” he said. “That’s every kid’s dream. Just to have the opportunity this year with these guys and this coaching staff was just amazing, especially after last year.”
Tulane finished 23-29 in 2014, and its regional appearance broke a six-year drought, the longest for the program since it made its first regional in 1979.
Deschamp, a junior-college transfer, was one of two seniors on the regional roster, joining Tyler Wilson.
“I’m very proud of them,” first-year coach David Pierce said. “It was just a great job of getting to where we came this year, the ability to get into the regional and hopefully create some hunger for the younger players.”
RAIN, RAIN AND MORE RAIN
The start of the game was delayed for 3 hours,15 minutes by another torrential downpour, an issue that affected all three of Tulane’s contests at Alex Box Stadium.
The opener Friday against UNCW ended after midnight following a delay of more than two hours. Saturday’s victory against Lehigh was halted for 3 hours, 15 minutes in the fifth inning by lightning and then a downpour.
“It was long,” Pierce said. “It was tough. I thought we handled all of the delays well. I didn’t see any letdown. I didn’t see anyone play tired.”
Tulane and UNCW passed the time Sunday with a free throw competition on a mini-hoop that the Wave set up near its dugout, a fungo hitting contest and fake wrestling pins.
Shortstop Stephen Alemais tweaked a hamstring running out a ground ball in the first inning and played through the pain until the eight inning, clearly hampered by the injury.
With Alemais having played all but one inning this year, the Wave had no backup plan. Sophomore Matt Braud, who had played in two games with one at-bat this season, finally replaced him in the eighth inning, and Pierce said Braud would have gone in earlier if necessary.
“Matt has worked a lot over there, and he’s actually become a very reliable backup,” Pierce said. “You would like to see your starters finish it, but we probably would have just went with Matt at short (if Alemais had been unable to continue).”
Pierce said Deschamp, who started five times at shortstop last year, would have been the best option, but then no one would have been comfortable at second base. Tulane played the entire regional without normal starting second baseman Jake Willsey, who served the final three games of a four-game suspension he incurred at the American Athletic Conference tournament for getting ejected and then bumping an umpire.
ROUGH REGIONALS FOR AAC
Tulane was one of four AAC teams to get regional berths, in large part because the league had the third-highest RPI rating behind the SEC and ACC.
The postseason has not been as kind. East Carolina, which won the AAC tournament, went 0-2 as a No. 2 seed, while Tulane and South Florida finished 1-2 as No. 3 seeds. Houston, which hosted a regional as a No. 1 seed, lost to Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday and was playing Rice in an elimination game late Sunday night.