Tulane sophomore Corey Merrill showed what he could do with a rare lead on Friday night.
Given his first run of support in 42.2 innings dating back to last April 13, he allowed three hits over seven shutout innings and earned the first victory of his career as the streaking Green Wave (9-1) beat Creighton (4-2) 8-2 at Turchin Stadium in the opener of a three-game series.
Merrill (1-0) did not give up a run in his last start, either, going seven innings against San Francisco, but he was gone by the time the Wave scored in the ninth to win 1-0. This time, he watched Hunter Williams hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first inning, then made that advantage stand up the rest of the way.
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders to get that first win,” Merrill said. “It felt awesome we put up that run in the first inning. Everybody was looking at me like yean, you finally got one, but I was just focused on the game and just trying to get the win.”
It was another complete performance from Tulane, which looks like a totally different team under new coach David Pierce. The Wave made no errors, turned its 12th double play of the season, got timely hits and had two more home runs coming off a season when it struggled in all of those departments.
Garrett Deschamp doubled off the base of the wall in left field to start the fourth, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly.
With two outs in the fourth, Hunter Hope singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Hunter Williams’ single. Lex Kaplan then crushed his first career home run down the left field line off of Creighton reliever Keith Rogella in the fifth to make the score 5-0.
Deschamp added a three-run shot into the net in left field off a hanging breaking ball two innings later, padding the advantage to 8-0. It was his second home run of the season and the 10th for Tulane, matching the team total for 2013 and 2014.
“Both of those home runs today were no-doubters into the teeth of the wind,” Pierce said. “Both kids really hit them well. It’s good to see.”
Tulane nearly shut out an opponent for the third consecutive game, but the Blue Jays scored twice in the ninth inning off reliever Eric Steel.
Merrill was the latest in a long line of dominant Tulane starters, who have surrendered a total of three runs in the last eight games. And unlike last Friday, when he was shaky at times despite the goose eggs, he was in total command against Creighton.
“It was nice to get him some runs early and get him a lot of runs tonight,” Pierce said. “I don’t think he threw one changeup tonight. It was fastball- breaking ball, and he executed.”
Merrill faced the minimum 12 batters through four innings. Only one Creighton runner reached second base—on a two-out double in the sixth—and Merrill promptly struck out Nicky Lopez to end the threat. He struck out third-hole hitter Reagan Fowler all three times he faced him.
Tulane had 10 hits for the first time in five home games, with Hope and Deschamp getting two apiece. Seven of the Wave’s runs came with two outs.
“We smelled blood in the water,” Deschamp said. “We just put them away. Guys are just working on getting to first base, and we’re finding barrels.”