It’s the same old story for the reeling Tulane baseball team.
The Green Wave makes a push in the middle innings, looks like it has plenty of momentum and then falls apart under the weight of bad pitching and other assorted issues.
Rinse, wash, repeat, defeat.
Tulane’s latest loss, 10-6 to Connecticut (33-21, 12-11) on Friday night at Turchin Stadium, dropped it to fifth place in the American Athletic Conference just two days after it was in second. The Wave (30-24,11-11) can move back to third with a win in Saturday’s regular-season finale coupled with a Central Florida victory at home against Houston, but the signs are pointing in the other direction for a team that has dropped 13 of its last 18 and four consecutive conference series.
“We’ve had all these opportunities from Central Florida to Houston to this weekend and we just don’t want to grab the prize,” coach Travis Jewett said. “It’s almost like we’re allergic to it.”
This one hinged on a rough sixth inning immediately after Tulane had back-to-back-to-back-to back hits to tie the score at 4 in the bottom of the fifth.
Struggling freshman Krishna Raj replaced starter Trent Jonson to start the sixth and allowed four consecutive base-runners after getting a hard-hit out, leaving when he plunked a batter in the helmet. Justin Campbell replaced him and hung a breaking ball to scorching-hot clean-up hitter Pat Winkel, who drove in two runs for his ninth and 10th RBIs in two games.
All three runs were charged to Raj (3-2), who has allowed 17 earned runs in his last 10 1/3 innings.
Just like that, Tulane trailed 7-4 on a night when physical and mental errors multiplied.
“It’s tough,” said freshman Hudson Haskin, whose two-run homer in the ninth came far too late. “We’re just shooting ourselves in the foot. We have to clean that up and get back to playing the way we were at the beginning of the season. We’re capable of hanging with these guys.”
Connecticut, which had failed to score five runs in more than one game of any of its first seven conference series, has put up 18 through two games, receiving plenty of help from the Wave along the way.
In the first inning, Johnson fielded an easy double-play grounder and threw short of second base. Shortstop Sal Gozzo could not hold on to the short hop, leading to two unearned runs in another rocky start.
Jewett pulled Gozzo for freshman Collin Burns after the third inning when Gozzo intentionally bounced a routine throw to first baseman Trevor Jensen because he did not want him to look into the sun. Jensen bobbled it, leading to another unearned run—the sixth of the weekend for UConn.
“I just needed to try to change the rhythm of the thing and give someone else an opportunity,” Jewett said.
Burns, who was 3 for his last 16, did not take advantage. He struck out and hit into a double play in three at-bats. He also allowed a run to score from second in the ninth when he fielded an infield single, held on to the ball too long and made an inaccurate throw home when he realized the runner was trying to score.
While Tulane’s decisions backfired, Connecticut coach Jim Penders’ remained on fire with his moves.
Former Tulane catcher Paul Gozzo, Sal’s twin brother, started for the second consecutive night after spending most of the last month on the bench. He doubled in a run in the third and was outstanding defensively, building on his two-hit performance as a designated hitter on Thursday.
David Langer, sporting a .157 batting average, pinch hit in the sixth and singled to start the Huskies’ three-run inning. He finished 3 for 3.
The Wave has not won two of three on a weekend since sweeping South Florida in mid-April. Star third baseman Kody Hoese, enduring his first slump of the season, was 1 for his last 14 until a fortunate bloop triple in the ninth.
Haskin followed with his eighth home run and Tulane’s 83rd, moving the Wave into fifth on the school’s all-time single-season list.
“I’ve been pressing a little bit the last two weeks or so, but the last week I’ve been taking some better swings,” he said. “Hopefully I can build off of that.”
It was one of the few bright spots on a dark night along with a leaping catch by right fielder Luke Glancy that saved three runs in the first.
Otherwise, it was another maddening performance.
“I told them I’ve let them down,” Jewett said. “I don’t know why we are trending south versus north at this stage in the game.”