A non-conference road game right before the long-awaited start of conference play can be a mental challenge in college baseball.
Tulane (17-7) which struggled in mid-week contests of any type last season, believes it has turned the corner in that department entering Tuesday’s trip to UL (11-14).
The Green Wave beat the Ragin’ Cajuns 7-3 last Wednesday at Turchin Stadium, improving to 6-0 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays a year after going 6-8, losing six in a row to in-state opponents at one point. In three such games this year, Tulane outscored Nicholls, McNeese State and UL 23-10.
“We’ve been stressing the midweeks, and so far, so good,” first baseman Trevor Jensen said. “I think we’ll go with (Krishna) Raj for five or six innings or however far he can go to keep us in the game, and then we’ll go with a few guys out of the bullpen who didn’t pitch this weekend.”
Tulane, the only American Athletic Conference team that did not play a league series last weekend, opens its AAC schedule at Cincinnati this Friday. After 12 consecutive home games, the trip to Lafayette, the Wave’s first away from New Orleans since March 3, should be beneficial.
“It’s a little different preparation,” Jensen said. “We’ll have BP (batting practice) at a different time, travel, but overall it’s the same. If we go out there and we pitch like we did this week and we continue to hit, I think we’ll be just fine.”
In a rare college baseball occurrence, Raj will be the starting pitcher against the same team in back-to-back weeks.
The last time it happened for Tulane against a midweek opponent was 2012, when Alex Bio allowed three runs in eight innings in a 10-3 win against Alcorn State and returned seven days later to blank the Braves through seven innings of a 14-1 victory.
Emerson Gibbs started against Houston twice in six days during the 2016 season, giving up one run in 7 2/3 innings in the Wave’s final regular-season series and allowing four runs in seven innings during a conference tournament loss.
Raj (2-0, 3.57 ERA), a freshman, gave up five hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings last Wednesday against the Cajuns.
“Obviously, they’ve seen (his stuff) and they’ll know the velocity ranges and the shapes of the pitches and all that kind of stuff, but hopefully he’ll do what he does, which is compete well and throw three pitches for strikes and establish the game,” coach Travis Jewett said. “We’ll be full-bore down there. All of his stuff will probably have to tick up, but he’s certainly capable of doing that.”
Out of the mix
Sophomore Josh Bates (2-0. 1.35), Tulane’s starter for its first three Tuesday games, has not pitched since a relief performance against UC Santa Barbara on March 10.
Jewett said Bates was not hurt. After beginning the year with a one-hitter in seven innings against Lamar, he has struggled with his control. The issues started when he walked four and plunked three batters in five innings at Nicholls State despite not allowing a run. He was pulled from his next start, against Texas Southern, in the top of the first inning when he walked three. He walked one and hit two more while recording two outs against UC Santa Barbara.
Since his last appearance, 14 pitchers have taken the mound for Tulane.
“It’s performance-based,” Jewett said of Bates’ drought.
Tulane’s RPI rank has fallen to No. 89 according to WarrenNolan.com despite its sweep of Houston Baptist over the weekend. The Wave has played only six games against teams in the top 120, losing two of three to No. 22 Ole Miss and getting swept by No. 8 UC Santa Barbara. … Five Tulane hitters are batting above .320 — Frankie Niemann (.417), Kody Hoese (.392), Jensen (.346), Grant Mathews (.333) and Hudson Haskin (.324). … Hoese is tied for fifth nationally with 11 home runs, three behind the leader. … Tulane is tied for fourth nationally with 35 homers.