Five things we learned about Tulane baseball after dominant UCF Series

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Christian Szczepanski, Staff Reporter

The Tulane Green Wave (24-15, 5-7 American Athletic Conference) desperately needed a strong showing after a rough start to conference play. With the 2-1 series win over the Central Florida Knights (26-15, 5-7) last weekend, that’s exactly what they managed to do. Here are five things we learned from the series win. 

1. The Green Wave play dice with the Universe and win.

Before the series last weekend, UCF ranked No. 19 on the USA TODAY baseball rankings. The Green Wave has never touched this ranking, only once ever receiving votes for its inclusion. Not only that, but Tulane had yet to win a weekend series since the sweep of Xavier the weekend of March 13. 

Yet, like the surprising result of the Tulsa game during the football season, Tulane continued its trend of going against the expected outcome. Shutting out UCF two of the three games, scoring 13 runs to the Knight’s 8, both the bats and pitching were in sync for the weekend. Interestingly, UCF had never been shutout before the series and the upset showed on the faces of the opposing team’s players as they exited quickly on Sunday, leaving on the negative side of the 10-run rule.

UCF has now dropped out of all collegiate baseball rankings but the NCBWA because of the series with Tulane.

2. The conference title isn’t a mirage.

Now 5-7 in conference games, the Tulane Green Wave still hold a very complicated position in the AAC rankings. Exactly three games behind the league leader USF, Tulane needs to do exceptionally well in the next 12 conference games in order to contend for the AAC Tournament in late May. However, Tulane is set up well for this endeavor if it can continue to play as well it did over the weekend.

The next conference series is with Cincinnati, which currently holds the last place position in the AAC. If Tulane can perform as well as it has of late, it may carry that momentum into the second series against AAC favorite Houston, having before lost two of three-game series. Memphis and South Florida come after this series. Though both Memphis and USF top the standings in the conference, the Green Wave have a chance to improve its record while while playing spoiler, as Memphis and USF have aspirations to compete in tournament season.

3. The No. 1 spot in the lineup is called that for a reason.

Sophomore shortstop Stephen Alemais moved to the No. 1 hole in the lineup for the sixth game of the 2015 season and hasn’t looked back. This hasn’t been without good reason though, as he has continued to hit well in the Tulane lineup. Alemais currently holds the team highs for batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and stolen bases which is what any manager looks for in a lead-off hitter.

During the UCF series, Alemais batted .333 with three walks and a stolen base. Scoring four of the Green Wave’s runs during the weekend, he appears to be in good form moving forward into the next four series.

4. Everything is theatrical.

One of the most common expressions in the stands and press box for Tulane baseball games earlier this season was “two-out theatrics,” typically muttered under their breath during the ninth inning. The Green Wave have won seven games when trailing or tied in the ninth inning, many during the last one or two outs. The only difference between those scenarios at the beginning of the year and now is that the theatrical elements have extended to the other innings.

Some dramatic plays from the Green Wave during the UCF series prevented situations that could have broken up the shutouts or even lost the game.

In game one, Matt Diorio of the Knights hit a ball that soared over the outfielders heads and bounced off the right field wall. With a runner on first base, this ball had a chance to bring a runner home. However, sophomore Lex Kaplan, who has started every game this season in right field, launched the ball to Alemais who quickly gunned it to Jake Rogers at home plate, who tagged the runner. In most situations, the runner should have been safe without any shred of a doubt, but the Green Wave proved otherwise.

Tulane also used an almost comical shift on one of UCF’s batters, pushing Jake Willsey at second base into short right field. Every time this batter, James Vasquez, went up to bat, they applied the shift. The risky maneuver worked the majority of the time, allowing Tulane to avoid a few close situations. 

5. But theatrics are always risky.

The Green Wave and its unexpected outcomes, strange situations and excitable performances sometimes gets themselves into trouble, and this could ultimately lead to its downfall if it does not try and keep some stability. The Wave have to continue to use smart base-running techniques, especially when the opposing squad makes a mistake like forgetting to call time or balking. Opposing players will not always make important errors, so hitting toward the gaps and bunting for hits (a Tulane specialty) are necessities. More than anything else, though, Tulane must discontinue the practice of trying to make the jaw-dropping catch rather than the safe play.

In game three of the UCF series, Junior Richard Carthon dove for a ball that was hit in front of him in center field, but he was unable to make the grab. This allowed the ball to roll farther back into center field before any other player could get a glove on it, pushing the runner easily to extra bases.

This mimics a diving miss by freshman Jackson Johnson that allowed an inside-the-park home run during the LSU game earlier this year.

The errors, passed balls, wild pitches and unnecessary theatrics that have hurt the team since the beginning of the season need to be reduced in the upcoming series if Tulane is going to play at its best.

For a chance at the conference title in the American Tournament, Tulane needs to play error-free, and pitch and hit lights out. Considering how the Wave have played of late, this may just be an achievable feat.