When you think about the strength of the Tulane Baseball team in recent years, you think of talented hitters—Kody Hoese, Hudson Haskin—and to go with that, sometimes shaky pitching. But take a closer look at the 2020 season, and you’ll see a team bucking that trend.
“What’s gotten us back in the fold is that dirt circle in the middle of the field; it’s the pitching.” Tulane Head Coach Travis Jewett was effusive with praise for his pitching staff when he spoke with College Baseball Nation this week. “In a ballgame, you want to be in range. Good pitching keeps you in range. We’re longer—we have guys who can start and guys you can pass the ball to.”
In 2021, Tulane will return all of the key contributors from a pitching staff that last season helped lead them to a 15-2 start and the number 18 ranking in College Baseball Nation’s final top 25. A year ago, Tulane’s pitchers silenced opponents’ bats and notched a 3.06 team ERA (over two and a half runs better than the previous year).
Tulane’s pitching identity is set by their elite starters. Junior RHP Braden Olthoff proved himself to be a bonafide ace in his four 2020 starts. Olthoff averaged 7.0 innings pitched per start and gave up just a single earned run across those four starts, finishing with a 0.32 ERA. “He’s a man with a vision,” said Jewett of Olthoff. “He’s very invested when he has a ball in his hand and when he doesn’t.” Olthoff fanned a staggering 47 hitters in his 28.0 innings and allowed just three walks.
Junior LHP Jack Aldrich also played a key role in the Green Wave’s 2020 rotation and will likely do so again in 2021. A player Jewett described as “every coach’s dream,” Aldrich posted a sub-2 ERA in his four 2020 starts. Junior RHP Donovan Benoit is another key contributor from a year ago. While Benoit struggled some with control, giving up 15 walks in his 19.1 innings pitched, Jewett noted that the right hander has made substantial gains in the offseason. “He’s had a huge jump. He’s in the mid-90s,” relayed Jewett.
Closer and graduate student Keagan Gillies has also found success in the offseason and has touched 97 mph, according to Jewett. The converted starter was held in high regards by Jewett who complimented his “whatever it takes” attitude. More importantly, Gillies serves as an experienced, steady presence at the back end of the bullpen.
At the same time Tulane’s pitching was seeing massive improvement in 2020, the offense still shined. The Green Wave batted to the tune of a .303 team average. However, the 2021 offense will be missing the 39th overall pick from the 2020 MLB Draft, Hudson Haskin. Also gone are Grant Matthews, Ty Johnson, and Jonathon Artigues, who along with Haskin were four of the top producers for the Green Wave offense.
The good news for Tulane is that they won't be without offensive weapons in 2021. Returning players Trevor Minder, Luis Aviles, Frankie Niemann, Ethan Groff, and Collin Burns were among the names mentioned by Jewett as guys he can rely on. Trevor Minder was tied for the team lead in extra base hits in 2020 (nine) and boasted a 1.066 OPS. Combined with his solid glove at third base, Minder has the eyes of MLB scouts.
Despite the losses in the lineup, Jewett has a positive outlook on his 2021 offense. “Pitching is going to allow us to be more trying and willing.” Jewett is looking forward to playing a more disruptive style of offense with guys on base, more base stealing, and the constant pressure of a big rally.
After the longest ever offseason in college baseball, Jewett is ready to get back on the field. “I’m excited. I’m optimistic. We’ve endured. We’ve come a long way. We’re ready to compete.” With the momentum Tulane is carrying with them into 2021, we’re optimistic for them too.
Tulane enters the spring “under consideration” for a spot in the Top 25.