The wind was blowing out Tuesday night at Turchin Stadium, but the ball wasn’t going anywhere.
Lex Kaplan then stepped to the plate for Tulane and hit a two-run, 380-foot homer to right field in the bottom of the sixth inning, changing everything.
The Green Wave, which trailed Louisiana-Lafayette by a run at the time, rallied to win 5-3, getting some good fortune while also taking advantage of the conditions.
Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux was not interested in making excuses.
“We had 40 minutes to play this wind in BP (batting practice), so there’s no alibi,” he said. “We opened up the door for them, and give them credit, they crawled through. That’s what good teams do.”
Tulane (8-4) improved to 7-1 at home, while Louisiana-Lafayette (8-5) dropped to 1-5 on the road.
The Wave went ahead for the final time when Cajuns left fielder Kennon Fontenot misjudged a line shot by Grant Brown in the seventh.
Fontenot moved casually for a ball that appeared to be coming right to him. He watched it sail two feet over his head as a run scored with two outs.
“The low liners are sometimes the toughest balls to catch because you can’t really see how hard they’ve been hit, so you start to come in,” Robichaux said. “That one play is magnified, but we had opportunities to move runners and didn’t do that and botched a bunt.”
The wind was not done playing tricks with the Cajuns. First baseman and Alex Pinero and second baseman Stefan Trosclair let an infield pop from Jake Rogers bounce behind them to start the eighth. Tulane’s Jeremy Montalbano followed by crushing a two-run homer off Eric Carter into the net down the left field line.
Just like that, the Wave led 5-2.
“It was a fastball middle in, and he left it a little bit up,” Montalbano said. “It was a good pitch to handle, and I put a good swing on it.”
Kaplan’s swing was totally against the run of play. The Cajuns were the better team for most of the first six innings.
Starter Evan Guillory retired 12 straight from the end of the second through two outs in the sixth before walking Montalbano.
Then he made one mistake on a two-strike pitch.
“He’d been throwing me inside, and I was thinking that maybe he was going to come back inside, and he did,” Kaplan said. “I got it on the barrel.”
The Cajuns scored their first run with a two-out rally started by Fontenot, who singled off Ross Massey in the fifth to stop an 0-for-17 streak for the year. Joe Robbins and Brenn Conrad followed with singles, bringing in Fontenot, but Dylon Poncho grounded out with the bases loaded.
The Cajuns missed another opportunity in the sixth. Brad Antchak appeared to beat out a throw to second from Tulane shortstop Cade Edwards, but the umpire disagreed, turning what would have been an RBI grounder into the third out.
Kaplan struck soon afterward.
The Cajuns tied it in the seventh when a pickoff attempt by Tulane catcher Jake Rogers eluded Grant Witherspoon at first and rolled down the right field line, allowing Robbins to score from second base.
Trevor Simms (1-0) pitched the final three innings for Tulane. He had not allowed a run in five appearances until Trosclair’s two-out double in the ninth. Simms, with a fast ball up to 93 miles per hour and a slider around 88 according to Wave coach David Pierce, struck out five in three innings and coaxed a fly ball to left to end the game.
“It’s just getting him to focus and repeat and get that adrenaline going,” Pierce said. “Once he gets there, he gets confident. He’s an older kid but he’s a young pitcher.”
Guillory limited Tulane to four hits in six innings, but the Cajuns’ bullpen struggled. Jevin Huval (0-1) and Carter combined to give up five hits and three runs.
Robichaux is getting concerned about the Cajuns’ poor performance away from Lafayette entering their Sun Belt-opening series at Troy this weekend.
“That’s one thing you want to be better at,” he said. “Right now that’s the struggle part for us, but there’s only one way to handle this, just to keep going back out on the road.”