Although the Tulane and LSU baseball teams appear to be on the same plane for the first time in nearly 10 years, the coaches are taking a different approach to Tuesday night’s meeting at sold-out Turchin Stadium.
The Green Wave’s David Pierce will leave in starting pitcher J.P. France as long as he is effective. France (3-1, 3.98 ERA) shut out the Tigers for six innings in a 7-1 victory at Alex Box Stadium on March 29 and has pitched into at least the sixth inning in four of his seven starts, including another scoreless stint last Tuesday against Southern Miss.
“He’s getting better every week, and it’s not just the result, it’s his stuff,” Pierce said. “You can see his confidence. As far as mentality, he’s as good as anybody we have to go out in that environment (Tuesday) night.”
LSU’s Paul Mainieri may let Doug Norman (1-0, 3.26 ERA) pitch longer than his normal plan, but with clear strings attached, because he wants him to be available for the Tigers’ series at Ole Miss that starts Thursday. No LSU pitcher has gone more than four innings in a midweek game this year. The Tigers have rolled out an average of more than seven pitchers in their 10 midweek games, including nine against Tulane. Norman, a sophomore righty, went two perfect innings in his only other start: Wednesday’s 11-4 win against Southeastern Louisiana. His other 14 appearances have been in relief.
“I’d like to see him go three to five innings or something like that,” Mainieri said. “We’ll have to keep an eye on his pitch count. Hopefully he’ll be pitching well enough to still be pitching at that point.”
Either way, the atmosphere will be electric. Tulane (26-13), which announced the sellout Thursday, is trying to sweep LSU (27-13) for the first time since 2007. The Wave went 4-0 last week, jumping as high as No. 20 in the rankings (Baseball America, Perfect Game).
“I can’t wait,” Pierce said. “I think it’s going to be so much fun for both teams. It’s going to be great for the city of New Orleans and for baseball fans of both teams. We truly have an opportunity to go in and give LSU a tough ballgame. I just see the atmosphere of the mid-2000s will be regained a little bit.”
The Tigers, who salvaged the final game of a home series against Mississippi State over the weekend, are ranked as high as eighth by Baseball America and as low as 15th by Collegiate Baseball. Mainieri said the team “purged” its loss against the Green Wave — in which, the coach said, his team’s walk-filled, error-strewn first two innings were among the worst of his tenure — but would rehash the game tape Monday night and Tuesday morning.
“They’re a nationally ranked team who whipped us pretty well the first time,” Mainieri said. “They just came off a series sweep on the road, so I’m sure they have a lot of self-confidence because they play well at home. It’s a sold-out crowd, so I think it’s going to be a really intense atmosphere, just like it will be at Ole Miss this weekend. We just have to be up to the challenge.”
LSU has won five in a row away from Baton Rouge, sweeping Missouri after taking the last two of a series at Auburn. The Tigers are hitting much better since moving right fielder Antoine Duplantis to the leadoff spot right after their loss to Tulane, averaging 8.3 runs in 16 games.
Tulane emerged from a hitting funk last week, beating Southern Miss 12-0 before outscoring Central Florida 14-4 in three games over the weekend. Shortstop Stephen Alemais, who helped beat LSU with his spectacular defense earlier in the year, earned American Athletic Conference Player of the Week honors with eight hits in 18 at-bats. He had hit .179 in his previous 10 games, mirroring many of his teammates.
The Wave was coming off a home series loss to Cincinnati when it scored six runs.
“Our players realized that they’re very talented and they have to stay within themselves,” Pierce said. “The big word of the week was discipline. We were just so much more confident in what to hit and what to take.”
LSU hits .303 compared to Tulane’s .271 and has scored 50 more runs. Tulane, though, has the clear power advantage. The Wave has pounded 39 home runs while giving up only 11, while the Tigers have allowed more homers (32) than they have hit (29). … LSU had won nine of the past 10 in the series before losing in March. … Tulane is 17-5 at home.
— The Advocate’s Chandler Rome contributed to this report.