With his pitchers in crisis mode, Tulane baseball coach Travis Jewett tried to emphasize the positives after a crushing 13-12 loss to Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday night.
He knows the Green Wave (6-7), which fell below .500 for the first time, has to exhibit better control on the mound to win its series with Purdue (8-2) this weekend at Turchin Stadium. He understands the abundance of walks, wild pitches and hit batsmen will torpedo another season unless they are held in check soon.
But Jewett liked some of the other things he saw. Everyone but star center fielder Grant Witherspoon had at least one hit, and Witherspoon, Tulane's best player, walked twice.
Catcher Acy Owen snapped out of an 0-for-20 slump with an RBI single. The Wave responded to adversity twice, rallying for six straight runs after losing a 5-1 lead and coming up with some clutch at-bats in the ninth after falling behind 13-11.
Jonathon Artigues spoiled some two-strike pitches before drawing a two-out walk to extend the game. Witherspoon walked right behind him, and Ty Johnson's single put Witherspoon at third base, 90 feet from tying the score.
"That's a good enough offensive performance to come out of here with a W," Jewett said. "We knew they weren't going to fold. We had to respond, and we've shown the ability to do that now. That's a positive. It's going to help us going forward. I truly believe that."
Tulane's batting average of .271 is higher than its season-ending marks from the last five years. Five starters are hitting above .300. Seven are above .250.
For any of those stats to matter though, the pitches have to stop being wild. Tulane has walked 67 in 114⅓ innings, nearly double the total of its opponents, and hit another 19. Three late leads have turned into losses in the past week.
It is a demoralizing problem that can affect an entire team's mentality, prompting Jewett to call for a light practice Thursday rather than taking a day off.
I just want to be out here together because we've got to stay connected in this thing," he said. "If we fracture, it could go fast, but that's not going to happen. I'm not going to let that happen."
Jewett will keep the same starting rotation he used last weekend, with Kaleb Roper on Friday, Ross Massey on Saturday and Keagan Gillies on Sunday. It will be up to them to set a better tone against Purdue, which is vastly improved from two years ago, when it went 10-44. The Boilermakers are 1-2 against teams in the top 100 of the RPI, splitting a pair with Notre Dame and losing 11-6 to Stetson on Sunday.
"We are right there and we know that," Witherspoon said. "It's just going to take a couple of big plays. That's all it takes, and then you guys will be saying how are you guys doing so well? It's going to happen."