After Krishna Raj walked three batters in a two-run first inning for McNeese State, the slumping Tulane baseball team needed something to lighten the dark atmosphere at Turchin Stadium.
The Green Wave got it in the form of comedic fielding by the Cowboys.
Taking advantage of three errors, Tulane scored three unearned runs in the bottom of the first and won 9-3 on Tuesday night for only its second victory in six games.
McNeese State shortstop Reid Bourque booted a routine ground ball from leadoff hitter Trevor Jensen. Then, with two outs, first baseman Jake Dickerson dropped an easy throw from Bourque that would have ended the inning and compounded his mistake by airmailing a throw to third base in an attempt to catch Jensen napping.
The double-error allowed Jensen to cross the plate, and catcher Frankie Niemann followed with a two-RBI single that gave the Wave a 3-2 lead.
The atmosphere lightened dramatically from there.
"Sometimes you have to take advantage of opportunities that other people give you," coach Travis Jewett said. "It doesn't have to be one-sided all the time. It gave our kids a chance to almost breathe a little bit because it had started going like we were the last couple of weeks."
Flushing a lost weekend that included 21 walks, 10 hit batsmen and four wild pitches in a UC Santa Barbara sweep, Tulane (11-6) settled down the rest of the way.
Raj and relievers Trent Johnson (2-0) and C.J. Whelan combined to hit nobody and walk only one in the next six innings, which was all the Wave needed to take command.
Kobi Owen tripled just over the right fielder’s glove in the third, making the score 4-2, and Niemann drove him in with a double into the gap in left-center.
Luke Glancy added a two-run blast down the right-field line and into the parking lot in the sixth after Niemann had his third of four straight hits.
"I was just put in good situations," Niemann said. "I was glad I could help the team win and get base hits when we needed them."
The offense has been there all year. The home run was Tulane’s 26th, more than half its total in 58 games last season. The Wave, which had scored 8.6 runs per contest, added three doubles and a triple in a typical performance.
The control hadn't been there.
Eliminating the freebies, Raj retired eight of nine at one point.before leaving with runners at the corners and one out in the fourth.
"I just went out and talked to him and calmed him down and told him to take a deep breath," Niemann said. "He's been lights out for us so far, and I told him to don't change what he was doing."
Replacing Raj, Johnson immediately induced a soft liner that second baseman Jonathon Artigues turned into an innning-ender, running forward for a nice shoestring catch and tossing to first to double off a base runner. Johnson allowed only three base-runners in three innings to earn the win.
"As a staff we needed to come and throw the ball over the zone," Johnson said. "We saw the direct correlation of it today. It's just trusting your stuff."
McNeese State (10-7) might have been blanked without a pair of Tulane miscues. Glancy, a last-minute replacement for an under-the-weather Grant Mathews in left field (Mathews moved to designated hitter), misplayed a wind-blown fly ball near the wall into a two-RBI double in the first. Reliever C.J. Whelan missed the bag after covering first base late for a grounder to Jensen with two outs in the seventh, allowing the Cowboys to score their final run.
Connor Pellerin pitched the eighth and ninth innings, walking two of the first three batters before retiring the final five.
Jewett liked what he saw and wants more of it from his weekend starters, adding he would stick with his rotation of Kaleb Roper, Keagan Gillies and Chase Solesky against UC Riverside.
"We needed that successful feeling like we can do this," Jewett said. "Now we have to train well the next couple of days and Roper's going to have to come out on Friday and charge that thing in there because we didn't get a quality start from our pitchers through last weekend."