Three storms collided in New Orleans this weekend as the Wichita State Shockers paid a visit to the Tulane Green Wave in American Athletic Conference action between the two schools.
The Shockers arrived in town having won seven straight games and with a 7-1 conference record. Tulane entered the weekend having won three straight and with a 3-1 conference record. Mother Nature also decided to show up, and what was supposed to be a four-games series ended up being a three-game, rain-shortened series at Turchin Stadium on the Tulane campus.
Something had to give.
Tulane sent their top arm to the mound to get the Friday double-header started, right-hander Braden Olthoff. Olthoff allowed two runs in the second inning and after allowing a run in the third, appeared to be on the ropes with two runners on base and no outs. Olthoff buckled down and struck out Shockers batters three-four-five to end the inning, but his team trailed 3-1 for the moment.
Tulane plated five in the fifth, sparked by Frankie Niemann who was 2-for-4 in the game with two doubles, one of four Tulane hitters with a run batted in. Olthoff took the game into the sixth and exited after 5 1/3 innings with ten strikeouts.
The Green Wave won the opener 6-3 and halted the Wichita State winning streak. Olthoff improved his record to 3-1, while Tulane pitcher Clifton Slagel picked up his first save of the season in pitching three scoreless innings.
For game two, Jack Aldrich took the mound for the Green Wave. Light drizzle turned to a light rain which created a wet field. The thick air and good pitching kept baseballs in the ballpark all day Friday.
Tulane took an early 1-0 lead on a one-out single to left-center off Wichita State starter Liam Eddy. The Green Wave added two more in the second, aided by two errors by the Shockers defense, to take a 3-0 lead.
Wichita State picked up a run on two hits and a double-steal in the fourth to get the deficit down to 3-1. A sacrifice fly two innings later made it 3-2 in the sixth.
Tulane went to the bullpen to start the seventh after Aldrich completed six innings and left with the lead. Though Wichita State starter Liam Eddy pitched seven innings and kept the Shockers in the game, but both teams were done scoring by that point.
Tulane took the nightcap 3-2 with the tying run for the Shockers stranded at second base.
Tulane sent Tyler Hoffman to the mound on Saturday morning to start game three. One run and twenty-five pitches later, lightning was spotted and delayed the game as the two teams left the field. A re-start time was set for two hours later, but it was not to be on Saturday, and eventually it was decided to resume the game on Sunday morning, while cancelling the Sunday contest altogether.
Roughly twenty-four hours after the Saturday game was stopped, Tulane starting pitcher Tyler Hoffman re-took the mound he had been standing on Saturday when the action stopped, with runners on the corners, two outs, and a 1-0 deficit. The game resumed, and so did Tulane’s winning ways.
Tulane tied the game at one in the bottom of the first off Wichita State starter Spencer Hynes. Tulane went to the bullpen with two outs in the third trailing 2-1 after Hoffman’s two-day starting effort. Donovan Benoit inherited a runner on second and struck out the first batter he faced to end the frame.
Tulane tied the game at two in the third. Chase Engelhard put the Green Wave in front with a leadoff home run in the fourth, making the score 3-2, this was also the first and only home run of the entire weekend for either team.
Several batters later, Tulane chased Hynes with one out and runners on second and third. A walk loaded the bases before a double by Collin Burns down the left field line scored two more runs, giving Tulane a 5-2 lead. A potential third run was stopped at home plate on a commendable relay effort.
Corrigan Bartlett drove in his third run of the game on his first base hit in the fifth to cut the Tulane lead to 5-3. Bartlett had driven in each of the previous two Shockers runs on two different sacrifice flies, and he would drive in four on the day. A ground out to short resulted in the second out, but the Shockers fourth run crossed the plate.
Engelhard added a run-scoring double in the fifth to bump the lead up to 6-4.
Wichita State went to the bullpen again in the fifth with one out and the bases loaded, but they escaped further trouble by inducing an inning-ending double play.
The Shockers added two runs in the sixth and trailed 7-6, but Tulane tacked on an insurance run they would later need that made it 8-6. The Shockers added a run in the ninth and left the tying run on base as Zach Devito closed out the game and the sweep with an 8-7 final score.
Donovan Benoit pitched 5 1/3 innings in long relief and earned the win for his effort, improving to 2-1.
By the time the weekend series concluded, Mother Nature had erased one game, and Wichita State had seen their seven-game winning streak come to an end as they fell to 19-12 overall and 7-4 in the American Athletic Conference. Meanwhile, Tulane improved to 17-13 overall and 6-1 in the American and left having won six consecutive games.