The win was meaningless in the big picture. Tulane pitcher Randy LeBlanc did not even get credited with the victory.
Still, his college career likely ended in just as impressive fashion as it started.
LeBlanc, a fourth-year junior who struck out 22 batters in 15.2 innings in three starts as a freshman before blowing out his elbow against Ole Miss, faced the minimum 18 batters through six innings as the Green Wave took a two-run lead on FIU Friday night at Turchin Stadium.
He pitched into the ninth inning for the first time in his career but left after shortstop Stephen Alemais’ error with one out led to a tying single. Reliever Tim Yandel induced a double play to keep the score tied, and Alemais redeemed himself with a bases-loaded single that bounced off the glove of pitcher Mike Gomez in the bottom of the ninth as Tulane won 3-2.
The Green Wave (22-29, 9-18 Conference USA), whose season will end after Saturday’s finale, snapped a four-game losing streak. FIU (36-17, 16-13) took a hit to its NCAA tournament at-large hopes.
And for LeBlanc, who expects to sign a professional contract after the season, it was a special performance. He allowed four hits — two through the first eight innings — and struck out five.
“It was fun,” LeBlanc said. “I definitely had a good one going. “It was nice for them to pick me up in the ninth inning, getting the walk-off win. If we would have lost, it would have been heartbreaking.”
Tulane interim coach Jake Gautreau did not hesitate sticking with LeBlanc to start the ninth.
“I’m happy for Randy,” he said. “We all know this is possibly his last outing in a Tulane uniform. He has a chance to be taken very high in the draft, and he went out there tonight and was amazing.
“We sent him back out there in the ninth because he’s our guy and he deserved that. We got that win because of what Randy did on the mound for us tonight.”
It was not until this year that LeBlanc regained his control. He went 2-2 with a 5.82 ERA in 2012 and was 4-4 with a 4.60 ERA in 2013.
He lowered his ERA to 2.46 with his performance Friday.
Alemais, who had four hits including the game-winner, still felt bad about probably costing LeBlanc the victory. There would have been two outs with no one on if his throw had not drawn first baseman Garrett Deschamp off the bag.
“I think Randy should have gotten the win, so therefore I’m disappointed in myself,” Alemais said. “I’m more disappointed than happy right now, but I was seeing the ball very well today.”
Although a nice individual moment, LeBlanc’s masterpiece did little to alleviate the disappointment of a lost season for Tulane.
All seven seniors were honored for graduating before Friday night’s game against FIU at Turchin Stadium. Their on-field exploits never matched their success in the classroom.
Only one of them — right fielder Andrew Garner — played Friday.
Another, pitcher Tyler Mapes, will start Saturday’s finale, leads the Wave with five victories and had a 2.44 earned run average.
Still, a dearth of upperclassmen in significant roles has contributed to Tulane’s first losing season in 21 years and 12th-place standing in 13-team Conference USA.