Tulane’s latest implosion on the mound sealed the fate of pitching coach Tighe Dickinson.
Dickinson resigned Friday morning, ending a brutal two-year tenure under coach Travis Jewett in which Green Wave pitchers posted the second- and fifth-worst staff ERAs since the school began keeping records in 1965.
Dickinson got a head start on his departure when he was ejected from a crucial American Athletic Conference tournament game against East Carolina on Wednesday. Tulane, which was poised to take control of its half of the bracket, had just coughed up a three-run lead, giving up five runs in the top of the eighth inning.
Tulane lost 6-5, and with Dickinson suspended for the next game in accordance with NCAA rules, Houston eliminated the Wave 18-7 in seven innings Thursday.
“I would like to thank coach Dickinson for his contributions to our program,” Jewett said in a university release. “We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”
Tulane finished 25-33, completing back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1963-64. Pitching woes bear the lion’s share of the blame. After having an ERA of 5.72 last year, the Wave improved negligibly to 5.42, bringing up the rear in the AAC by a long way for the second consecutive year.
Simply getting the ball over the plate proved elusive. Tulane pitchers, who shattered the school record with 318 walks in 2017, issued another 296, often in critical situations.
This year alone, Tulane walked in 23 runs, hit batters to force in another eight runs and allowed 17 runs to score on wild pitches. UNO plated the winning run in both of its Pelican’s Cup victories against the Wave on wild pitches in the ninth inning.
No pitcher symbolized Tulane’s struggles under Dickinson more than Baton Rouge Catholic graduate Ross Massey.
As a freshman in 2016 under former then-coach David Pierce, Massey was a second-team All-AAC selection with immaculate control, going 10-3 with an ERA of 2.29. He walked 18 in 90⅓ innings.
Working with Dickinson, he totally lost his command even before his sophomore season started, finishing 0-8 with a 9.68 ERA while walking 38 in 35⅓ innings.
This year, he went 2-2 with a 5.86 ERA, walking 22 in 35⅓ innings.
Dickinson, who spent the previous six seasons with middling success at Arkansas State, was not Jewett’s first choice. Former Oklahoma pitching coach Jack Giese was set to be hired in 2016, sources told The Advocate, but he did not pass the school’s vetting process because he lacked a bachelor’s degree.
The next hire will be critical for Jewett, who is 52-64 since coming to Tulane from Vanderbilt for his first Division I head coaching job and inherited a team that had gone to back-to-back regionals under Pierce.
The Wave likely will lose first-team All-AAC center fielder Grant Witherspoon to the Major League draft, but the bulk of the roster is set to return, including three .300 hitters in first baseman Trevor Jensen, second baseman Jonathon Artigues and designated hitter Grant Mathews.
The roster had only three seniors — relief pitchers Ben White and Sam Bjorngjeld and reserve outfielder Matt Rowland.