no.tulanebaseballopener_04.jpg

Tulane's Kobi Owen, holding helmet, celebrates with teammates after scoring against the George Washington Colonials, Friday, February 15, 2019, at Tulane's Greer Field in New Orleans.

Unable to play Saturday against George Washington because of a mangled thumb, Tulane outfielder Ty Johnson ran up and down the side of the field in between innings as he tried to convince the coaches he was ready to be a late pinch runner.

As the extra-inning game dragged past the four-hour mark, players remained just as energetic as they were for the first pitch, willing their teammates to another dramatic victory.

After sweeping the Colonials on opening weekend, the Green Wave insists camaraderie is a major reason it can get to 4-0 for the first time in five years. Tulane faces Lamar (3-0) on Tuesday night in the first of a two-game midweek set at Turchin Stadium.

Losing sucked the life out of the Wave the past two seasons. The dugout never has been livelier than it is now.

“This is a good group,” said first baseman Trevor Jensen, a senior who joined the team last year. “We are really connected and just jelling. Every day we get to the field, and everyone works hard and we have fun together. That’s going to take us a long way.”

Players have uttered similar words at the beginning of seasons since the dawn of time, but Tulane’s performance against George Washington provided some proof.

The Wave easily could have dropped the opener after giving up a tying run with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Instead, it responded with a run of its own to win.

Tulane looked like it was going to lose Game 2 before tying it in the ninth and winning in 13, never leading until scoring the final run.

The Wave even encountered brief trouble in the finale, falling behind 4-3 in the sixth before exploding for eight runs in the bottom half of the inning on its way to a 16-6 victory.

Those were games Tulane lost in coach Travis Jewett’s first two seasons.

“It’s a really good dugout,” said new pitching coach Daniel Latham, who filled in for Jewett in postgame interviews on Sunday after Jewett was ejected in the sixth inning. “The vibe's good. There’s no selfishness. The guys are pulling for each other and pushing for each other.”

Latham pointed out freshmen Hudson Haskin and Krishna Raj, among the stars of the weekend, already were two of the most popular players on an experienced team. No one was jealous of their ascension.

“It’s small things,” Sunday starting pitcher Chase Solesky said. “The team is into it every inning. Last year, the energy was down a little bit. Everyone has a good attitude about this year.”

Sooner rather than later

Latham said Johnson, who hurt his thumb sliding into second base on a successful steal in the opener, could be back soon despite the ugliness of the injury.

Johnson finished the game but did not play the rest of the weekend and likely will be unavailable against Lamar.

“It’s not going to be a season-long thing,” Latham said. “We’ll get that thing braced up, and as soon as the doctor says, ‘play ball,’ then we’re playing ball.”

It will require plenty of toughness from Johnson, a spark plug as the leadoff hitter and in the dugout with his boundless energy. Latham, who said he had a similar injury during his career, expects Johnson to have surgery after the season but play through the discomfort.

“It’s nasty,” Latham said. “It’s not good. His hand’s swollen really bad, but he’s itching to play right now.”

Lagniappe

Sophomore Josh Bates (2-2, 5.24 ERA in 2018) will start against Lamar. First pitch is 6:30 p.m. … Hard-throwing sophomore lefty Brendan Cellucci, whom Latham says possesses the best stuff on the staff, will start Wednesday. Cellucci walked seven in 2⅔ innings last year but pitched a scoreless inning in relief against George Washington on Saturday. … Tulane third baseman Kody Hoese was named to the American Athletic Conference honor roll after batting .429 on opening weekend. He went 6 for 14 with four RBIs, four runs scored and one home run.


Follow Guerry Smith on Twitter, @guersmith