Hey, Tulane fans.
You thought your football team had an unbelievable season that you will be talking about for years to come?
Well, just wait until you start telling people the story of the 2023 Tulane baseball team.
Trust me, nobody is going to believe you.
Even when you show them pictures and videos of the guys in the sky blue jerseys and olive green caps dogpiling Sunday near a pitcher’s mound in Clearwater, Florida, they still are going to look at you and say “no way.”
And if you’ve watched the Tulane baseball this season — as hard as that often was — you understand why someone would think you’re making this all up.
But the scoreboard at BayCare Ballpark did not lie.
The Tulane Green Wave really did the unthinkable, erasing 3½ months of a frustration-filled season by beating East Carolina 8-6 to win the American Athletic Conference tournament championship.
The Tulane football miracle from last fall was a one-year turn around as Willie Fritz’ bunch went from 2-10 one season to 12-2 and AAC champs the next.
This miracle took just six days.
Almost in the blink of an eye, first-year coach Jay Uhlman made you push that dismal 15-39 regular season record Tulane brought to the AAC tournament to the back of your mind.
The 39 losses were the most in the history of Green Wave baseball, a season so bad that many questioned if athletic director Troy Dannen made the right hire when selecting Uhlman to take over as the program’s head coach this season.
"When things didn't go right along the way, everyone stuck together," Dannen said. "No one in the locker room quit. It's that culture that allowed a run like this to happen."
It was this same tournament a year ago when Uhlman, an interim coach at the time, did enough to land the job in the first place. But that 2-2 record last year was nothing compared to this tournament run when the Green Wave came to life long after this season looked buried. Despite how woeful things have been since February, Uhlman never doubted.
“As long as there is breath in the lungs, you have a chance to be in the fight,” Uhlman said. “We had breath in our lungs and we had to be beaten twice to be eliminated. When you have kids that believe and have a want, these type of things show up.”
Now, Uhlman and his Green Wave players will gather Monday afternoon to find out which regional they will be playing in this weekend. It will be Tulane’s first trip to the NCAA baseball tournament since 2016. That team seven years ago, coached by David Pierce, was supposed to make it to the postseason.
This team wasn’t.
No one outside of the people in the dugout Sunday believed they could.
“I can tell you without hesitation that from the time we left New Orleans to the time we got here, they understood,” Uhlman said. “They knew the bigger picture and they were committed to being intentful and purposeful and that’s exactly what we got all week. They were resilient and they were gritty. Every adjective you can use, they showed it.”
Tulane, as the No. 7 seed, is the lowest seed to ever win the AAC tournament. Not bad for a team that won just eight conference games all season. They won half that many this week, winning four of five games, putting the exclamation point on the week by beating an East Carolina team that has perennially been the class of the conference.
All of a sudden, all the lows of the season seemed worth it.
“It was very frustrating,” said outfielder Teo Banks, named the tournament’s most outstanding player. “But you have to understand that baseball is a hard game and no matter how hard you try and how much work you put in, it can still go the opposite way. But if you keep at it and keep the faith and keep believing in God, things go your way. As a team that’s what we did and it ended up working out.”
The final out came on a popup that landed in the glove of Brady Hebert, setting off a celebration.
“It was euphoria,” Uhlman said. “When people don’t believe and they lose faith and you don’t (lose faith) and you hang in there and those kind of things show up, it makes it extra special for the journey.”
Now the journey continues. A team that many thought would be packing its bags for the season gets to pack its luggage for at least one more trip. The Green Wave are headed to a regional to play at least two more games.
“We have a lot of proud alumni who have been waiting for this,” Uhlman said. “They’ve had to endure our pain too over the course of this season. Without their support, it wouldn’t be as sweet. It’s going to be a real proud moment for me, particularly because I know how important this program is to a lot of people. There were a lot of great years at Tulane, so for us to be able to get back into the postseason is very meaningful. Wherever it is we are going, we are going to have our heads down and try to be the grittiest team and get after it.”
This week in Florida, they were just that.
And just like that, a season to forget all of a sudden became unforgettable.