Green Wave baseball was enjoying one of its finest seasons in years. With a record of 15-2 and a ranking of 20th in the nation, Coach Travis Jewett’s 2020 team was thrilling fans and shocking skeptics.
Then the unimaginable happened. On March 12, following a two-game sweep of Lamar, the American Athletic Conference announced the suspension of all spring competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A few days later, it was cancelled altogether.
Pitcher Braden Olthoff and his teammates were devastated. With such dominant play, they were envisioning moving up in the polls, advancing to the college baseball playoffs and maybe, just maybe, earning a coveted spot in the College World Series.
“It was very tough for all of us,” said Olthoff, who learned of the initial suspension on his 21st birthday. “There were a lot of emotions in the locker room. A lot of players were crying. We were really starting to get the respect we deserve. We couldn’t help but wonder, ‘How far could we have gone?’”
Just two weeks earlier, Olthoff pitched Tulane’s first no-hitter since 2005, a 2-0 victory over Middle Tennessee. For two consecutive weeks he was named the AAC’s Pitcher of the Week. A junior, he was looking ahead to the Major League Baseball draft.
Instead, he returned home to San Diego, where he continued classes virtually and began training for the draft with a group of other college players. Several teams showed interest in him but they were looking at him as a possible fourth or fifth round pick.
Olthoff knew he could do better than that and decided to return to Tulane to try to improve his draft stock. He also had some unfinished business — proving that the success of last season wasn’t a fluke.
Before the start of the season Feb. 19, Olthoff had amassed a number of preseason accolades — Third-Team All-America by D-1 Baseball, AAC Pitcher of the Year, Third Team All-America by Perfect Game, Second Team Preseason All-America by Collegiate Baseball and the Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List by USA Baseball.
“I enjoy the recognition,” Olthoff said. “It makes me want to work harder. It makes me want to perform even better.”