Right after walking, Grant Witherspoon called Matt Rowland's slump-busting, go-ahead three-run jack before he hit it.
Zero for nine to start the season, Rowland lofted a 1-0 fastball above the left-field wall to the right of the scoreboard, giving Tulane the lead for good as it completed an eye-opening sweep of Wright State on Sunday at Turchin Stadium. The Wave won 11-5 after taking two one-run games on Friday and Saturday, but the score was tied 4-4 when Rowland stepped to the plate with two outs in the fifth inning.
"I told coach (Travis) Jewett he (Rowland) was going to hit a bomb right there," Witherspoon said. "It's good to have him behind me. I'm so happy for him."
Until that swing off reliever Bear Bellomy (0-1), Rowland was exhibiting some of the same warning signs that led to a rough season (.194 batting average, eight starts) a year ago after Jewett talked him up as Tulane's hottest hitter. He struck out in his first three plate appearances on Friday night. Although he drew the go-ahead free pass with the bases loaded later in that contest, Wright State walked Witherspoon three times Saturday to get to him and benefited with easy outs on each occasion.
The same decision Sunday produced a much different result.
"I'm sure he (Witherspoon) is going to be pitched around a little all year because he's our best player," said Rowland, one of only three seniors on the team. "It's good to hit behind him. I took some good swings yesterday and just missed a couple balls. Today I was able to find some barrels, and it worked out."
Just about everything worked for Tulane all weekend. Coming off a disappointing 27-31 debut season under Jewett, the Green Wave welcomed 18 new faces and performed like a completely different team, too.
On Sunday, senior Sam Bjorngjeld pitched a perfect sixth and seventh as a deep bullpen shut down the Raiders after Keagan Gillies allowed four runs in 4⅔ innings and Trent Johnson struggled in relief. Johnson (1-0) still recorded the final out of the fifth to notch the win.
Horizon League favorite Wright State led in every game of the series, but Tulane was resilient. The Raiders scored in eight of the 28 innings played, and the Wave answered immediately after six of them, never giving them any breathing room.
"To me that's a championship characteristic," Jewett said. "The kids came out and battled."
Rowland's response was the loudest, validating Jewett's decision to bat him third in the order behind Witherspoon.
Rowland followed his three-run homer by driving in a pair of runs with a single in the seventh for a 9-5 lead, providing some cushion. His five RBIs were two more than he had for all of 2017, when he went from second in the order at the start of the year to deep on the bench quickly.
"I pulled the plug on him maybe a little bit early," Jewett said. "I think I learned from it. I was going to try to give him some rope to get some good at-bats."
Like the one Witherspoon called and Jewett confirmed.
"He's not fibbing to you," Jewett said. "They made a mound visit, and he came over (from first base) and said (Rowland) is going to hit a tank here. His crystal ball was on point. I hope he calls those more often."