Don’t mess with Tulane when you’re one inning away from winning.
Incredibly, the Green Wave remained perfect in three opportunities under new coach David Pierce when trailing entering the ninth, rallying to beat San Francisco 3-2 in 11 innings on Saturday at Turchin Stadium. And this one may have been the most remarkable of the bunch.
Sophomore designated hitter Hunter Williams crushed his first career home run to straight center field, tying the score with two outs in the ninth, and catcher Jake Rogers scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the 11th.
Tulane (5-1) has played just one game this year when the last lead change occurred before the final inning, winning four of them.
“We’re just resilient,” Rogers said. “We fight. We don’t ever give up. Even when we were down 2-1, there was a feeling in the dugout that we were going to win this game. Everyone in the dugout was pumped up.”
The walk-off wild pitch was not much different than the way Friday’s game ended, when the Wave beat San Francisco (0-7) on a walk-off walk. Williams’ home run was the big surprise.
Greeting a 1-0 pitch from reliever Matt Narahara, he sent a towering fly ball that sailed over the wall about 10 feet right of a 400-foot sign. Until that swing, his only extra base hits in 57 at-bats were a pair of doubles, and he had never even hit one out of the park to straightaway center in practice.
“It was a fastball down the middle and a little down,” Williams said. “I wasn’t trying to hit it out. I just tried to get a get a hit and find a way to be on base. I got the barrel on it and had a good feeling about it off the bat.”
His feeling got even better two innings later.
With Rogers on first and two outs, Narahara (0-1) plunked Richard Carthon. Replacement Mack Meyer’s first pitch to Williams turned into a passed ball, sending the runners to second and third. Meyer then walked Williams and before throwing the game-ending wild pitch, which almost hit Jake Willsey.
San Francisco had 10 hits in the first eight innings but rarely converted them into runs, missing a huge chance in the fourth when Domenic Miroglio held up after rounding third on a single with two outs.
Right fielder Lex Kaplan’s throw probably was too far up the line to get him if he tried to score, and Tulane starting pitcher Alex Massey ended the threat by inducing a grounder to third.
The Dons went ahead 2-1 in the seventh after the teams traded runs in the sixth, but Rogers prevented further damage by throwing out Dominic Miroglio as he tried to steal second. If Miroglio had been safe, the score would have been 3-1 because teammate Brendan Hendriks broke from third.
“Coaches tell me to just trust the defenders,” Rogers said of his decision to throw. “Our defense has been incredible these past two games and really all year.”
Ian Gibaut (1-1) picked up the win with 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Massey walked three and allowed seven hits through 6 1/3 innings but gave up only one earned run.
Tulane, which did not get its first hit on Friday until the seventh inning, had one hit through five innings this time. Somehow, the Wave won both games.
“Right now I just can’t explain it,” Pierce said. “I’ve never seen it, but I just hope they keep doing it.”
The teams finish the series on Sunday at 1 p.m.