Riptide’s Reflections | Back Jay Uhlman and back his players

Mark Keplinger, Sports Editor

tulane baseball
Courtesy of Parker Waters

Riptide’s Reflections is The Tulane Hullabaloo’s column talking all things Tulane athletics. 

It is fair to say that the first two weeks of the season have gone very poorly for Tulane baseball. The team is 1-8 and has several concerning problems, including its sluggish hitting and its bullpen. In his short tenure as head coach, Jay Uhlman is probably under the most pressure he has faced to date.

Fans of Tulane baseball should not lose faith yet. At this critical point of the season, the fans must rally behind the team and especially behind its head coach.

There are several valid criticisms of the team and coach; in the interest of fairness, I will examine some of these criticisms. However, we will also look at mitigating reasons for these criticisms and what the team has done well.

The offense has been off the mark. The team batting average is currently .233, ranking 229th out of 292 in the nation, and the team on-base percentage is .320, ranking 251th. High-profile offenders include sophomore outfielders Jackson Linn, hitting .161, and Teo Banks, hitting .125. Before the season, both were touted as two of the best hitters in the conference. 

While many factors contribute to a poor offense, the amount of strikeouts is too high — something Uhlman admits. Plate discipline is something to look at, with Tulane batters uncharacteristically swinging at bad pitches. Linn attributed this fault to hitters trying to do too much with their at-bats, and the fact that they do not need to hit a home run with every plate appearance.

However, there are some positive signs. Brennan Lambert, batting .387, and Brady Marget, batting .333, have been revelations at the plate. Speaking about Marget, Uhlman said, “He’s a professional hitter. He can hit all the pitches, all the locations and uses the whole field. He’s got power, and he’s got sneaky speed.”

Linn and Banks look like they are starting to turn their seasons around. Linn looks more comfortable in the batter’s box than he did previously, and a pair of hits against St. John’s — including a home run — will certainly help his confidence. As for Banks, he still looks shaky in his at-bats but his plate discipline is improving by the game.

Stolen bases are another positive offensive stat. Through the first eight games, Tulane stole 16 bases, which is good for 25th best in the land. 

The offense’s sluggish start will change. Baseball is a naturally streaky game, and at least some of the slow start can be attributed to bad luck. The players on the roster have proven they are great hitters in previous campaigns, but they will need to make the right adjustments in order for that to show on the diamond. 

Tulane is showing signs that the Sluggerbirds are finally starting to take flight, with good offensive games against St. John’s on Sunday and South Alabama on Tuesday. There is a feeling that the team is close to making the extra step that will unleash their full offensive potential.

The other major area of concern is the bullpen. While Tulane’s starting pitching has been incredible for the majority of the year, the bullpen has blown several leads this season, including in the first two St. John’s games. 

Uhlman is still figuring out who his high leverage relievers on the team are. When asked about his relievers and whether they can handle the pressure, the coach said, “It’s not just [about] one time going out. It’s like, where is the consistency? And that comes in approach and how they prepare themselves in the [bullpen] and how they can regulate their emotions when they get on the mound.”

In their opportunities, no reliever has made a strong case for being the team’s consistent high leverage reliever or closer. Still, there are some arms that have shown flashes of brilliance. Players such as Billy Price, Michael Fowler, Gavin Smith and Chandler Welch are veteran pitchers who can eat up several innings for Uhlman. Mixed in with them are intriguing freshman right handers in Will Prigge, Colin Reilly and Michael Lombardi — all of whom pitched solid innings in the last few games.

The consistency aspect will be the most important part for any of these pitchers as the season goes forward. While all the above players pitched great innings this year, many of them also had bad outings as well. 

It is also important to mention that the sample size for these pitchers is still small, with the majority of relievers seeing only a handful of appearances with less than five total innings pitched this year. They will need to continue pitching more innings in order to see their true value to the team.

The last crucial thing to note is the mentality surrounding the team. The players are very clearly backing themselves, each other and most importantly, their head coach. They are aware that the nature of baseball sometimes includes losing streaks and that the game does not fall your way. They are acutely aware of the pressure on themselves and on their coach. 

In a critical moment of the season, it is more important than ever to back the players and Jay Uhlman as they look to turn around their season in the coming weeks.

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