After an embarrassing sweep by formerly last-place Wichita State over the weekend, Tulane announced Monday afternoon it had parted ways with baseball coach Travis Jewett, effective immediately.
Assistant Jay Uhlman, the Green Wave’s hitting coach and recruiting coordinator, will serve as interim coach for the final regular-season series at home against Memphis this Thursday through Saturday and next week’s American Athletic Conference tournament in Clearwater, Florida.
Jewett, a long-time assistant coach at Gonzaga, Washington, Washington State, Arizona State and Vanderbilt, who had his first Division I head coaching job at Tulane, leaves with an overall record of 160-138-1 (61-57 in AAC play) in six years. The Wave finished second to East Carolina in the league last season with a 17-10 mark and entered 2022 hoping to supplant the Pirates as champions, but everything fell apart in the past three weekends.
Travis Jewett is out as Tulane’s baseball coach.
Tulane (30-22-1, 10-11), which was tied with East Carolina for first place in the AAC after winning a series against the Pirates on April 22-24, has plummeted to a tie for fourth – a whopping seven games behind the Pirates. The free-fall continued a pattern of second-half swoons under Jewett, who was hired before the 2017 season and never guided the Wave to a regional berth.
Tulane was 7-2 after nine conference games in 2019 but finished 12-11. The Wave started 13-2 in the AAC last season but lost eight of its last 12 games. It won its first five league games this season before dropping four of its next five series, going 2-7 in its last nine games at the same time perennial league power East Carolina went 9-0.
Mounting injuries and one key university suspension played a role. Right fielder Ethan Groff, batting an AAC-best .404, was lost for the year when he injured a thumb diving into first base in the ninth inning of a win against Central Florida on April 30. Later that same inning, closer Zach DeVito suffered a season-ending elbow injury while going for his 10th save.
Without them, Tulane went 1-6 in conference play. The Wave also played Wichita State without leading RBI and home run producer Luis Aviles, who received a university suspension on May 10 that is expected to be lifted this week, and starting second baseman Chase Engelhard, who is dealing with his own thumb injury.
A thin pitching staff struggled to replace DeVito, and the depth was exacerbated by the dismissal last month of Turner Thompson and the departure last week of Ben Tate and Landry Alligood, according to sources. All of them had pitched infrequently, but their absence appeared to indicate a growing disconnect on the team.
The capper came against Wichita State, when Tulane had no hitting in 2-0 and 4-3 losses on Friday and Sunday and no pitching or defense Saturday, when a 5-0 lead after two innings devolved into an 18-8 loss by run rule after eight innings.
The formerly last-place Shockers held on to win the final 4-3 after run-ruling the Green Wave on Saturday and handing them their first shutout on Friday.
Jewett’s struggles were not unprecedented in recent times. After having tremendous success under Hall of Fame coach Rick Jones, reaching nine consecutive regionals from 1998 to 2006 and the College World Series in 2001 and 2005, the Wave did not get to a regional in the final six years of Jones’ tenure from 2009- 2014, failing to qualify for the Conference USA tournament twice in that span.
David Pierce – hired before 2015 and benefiting from an outstanding recruiting class from Jones’ staff in 2014 – ended that drought by guiding Tulane to regionals in both of his years as coach and the AAC regular-season title in 2016 before leaving for Texas. The Wave had high expectations for Jewett’s first year in 2017, but he clashed with the players he inherited, and the Wave fell to 27-31 minus the two stars from the previous team – shortstop Stephan Alemais and catcher Jake Rogers – who both turned pro after being drafted.
A second straight losing season followed in 2018, but the Wave made incremental improvement in 2019 and was 15-2 and ranked in the top 25 of all the college baseball rankings in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the rest of the season.
After coming up short again last year, Jewett received a contract extension in the offseason according to sources, with the expectation of getting to a regional this year. The highest rated recruiting class of his tenure lived up to expectations – with four freshmen starting in the lineup against Wichita State and two freshmen pitchers starting every weekend – but shaky defense, inconsistent hitting and a young staff that lost all three weekend starters from a year ago led to the recent collapse.
Tulane had individual success under Jewett, but it did not translate to team performance. Kody Hoese was a first-round draft pick after batting .391 with 23 home runs in 2019. Outfielder Grant Witherspoon was a fourth-round selection in 2018. Shortstop Collin Burns was a sixth-round pick last year after hitting .353 with 20 doubles and 20 stolen bases. Then-freshman catcher Bennett Lee broke the school record for batting average last season, hitting .440.
Cracks began developing this year right after Tulane won two of three at home from reigning national champion Mississippi State in early March and climbed into the top 25 of several rankings. The following weekend, the Wave was swept by Evansville, killing that momentum.
Attendance at Turchin Stadium, already flagging for years, declined dramatically from that point. When the brief resurgence at the beginning of AAC play did not last, pressure began to mount. After the loss Sunday, Jewett talked about setting up his rotation for one final attempt to salvage the season by winning the league tournament and insisted no one on the team had given up.
One day later, the school announced his departure.