Jan. 31, 2001
In what seems like an annual Tulane Baseball tradition, the Green Wave once again begins a new season with high expectations. After all, the Wave was picked as the Conference USA preseason favorite in a vote of league coaches and is ranked in the preseason Top 25 of the Baseball America and Baseball Weekly/ESPN polls. Led by C-USA Preseason Player of the Year Jake Gautreau, Tulane has every reason to expect another successful season.
"I am very excited about the upcoming season," Tulane head coach Rick Jones said. "I feel our club has the ability to achieve above and beyond what we have done in the past. We return a lot of talented and experienced players who have had great success in our program. In addition, we have some freshmen and junior college transfers that we feel are going to make an immediate positive impact on our program."
The Green Wave returns all but one starter from last season's team that finished 38-22-1 and earned a berth in the NCAA Starkville Regional.
Tulane's infield is packed with experience and success, which is demonstrated by the return of three decorated starters.
"We have an experienced and extremely talented infield," Jones commented.
Jake Gautreau, the 2000 Conference USA Player of the Year, returns to third base for the Wave after spending a successful summer with the US National Team. Last season, Gautreau earned All-American honors as he hit .388 with 16 home runs, 68 RBI and 20 doubles. Gautreau had a .976 fielding percentage, only committing four errors in 164 chances. He has not missed an inning of play in his two-year career with Tulane and was voted the team captain by his teammates.
Veteran Andy Cannizaro returns to shortstop for his final season with the Green Wave. Cannizaro has had a successful career with the Wave, compiling a .317 career batting average coupled with top-10 career performances in stolen bases, doubles, hits and runs scored. Last season, Cannizaro hit .298 with 30 RBI, 15 doubles and 20 stolen bases in 27 attempts. He was ranked the 15th hardest player to strike out in Division I baseball according to NCAA statistics, recording only 13 strikeouts in 258 at bats.
Making the transition from second base to first is the 1999 national Freshman of the Year, James Jurries. Jurries, a 2000 All-Conference USA selection, hit .338 with 12 home runs, 51 RBI and 15 doubles.
New to the infield this season is Anthony Giarratano, a native of Marlboro, N.J., who is expected to start at second base for the Wave. As a junior at Christian Brothers Academy, Giarratano hit .484 with 42 RBI. He was ranked 27th in the Baseball America "Fabulous 50" list.
A versatile player who will add depth to the infield is freshman Turner Brumby of Lake Charles, La. Brumby, a high school teammate of Nick Bourgeois, did not commit an error in all 40 games played as a senior at Barbe High School.
Senior Steve Shirley moves from first base to the designated hitter spot. Shirley earned All-Conference USA honors for a strong season at the plate. He hit .362 with 19 doubles and 56 RBI.
Adding to the Green Wave's strengths in 2001 is an outfield with a great deal of depth. The Wave returns five players who started in the outfield at one time or another last season. Matt Groff and Jay Heintz, a pair of seniors, bring leadership and experience to the position. Groff, who received NCAA Regional All-Tournament honors in 1999, hit .292 and was 12 of 15 in stolen bases. Groff was a kicker/punter on the Tulane football team.
Heintz had an extremely strong second half of last season as he hit .324 with 14 RBI and three doubles. He posted a fielding percentage of .979 in the outfield. In the series against Southern Miss, Heintz was 7-for-8 with a pair of doubles.
Sophomore James Burgess, who played in 32 games as a freshman, looks to continue on the progress he made last season. Burgess, a regular in right field, earned Conference USA All-Freshman honors and hit .325 with 16 RBI.
Freshman Michael Aubrey is expected to have dual responsibilities this season in the outfield and on the mound. Over the summer, Aubrey earned a spot on the US Junior National Team. The Shreveport, La., native earned all-state honors as a senior and posted a 22-9 career record pitching for Southwood High School.
Adding depth to the outfield are sophomores John Kaplan and Aaron Feldman, who saw considerable action in the outfield last season. Kaplan hit .264 and recorded eight stolen bases. Feldman was 4-for-4 in stolen bases and committed only one error in the outfield.
Sophomore Mike VanDaele may also see time in the outfield or as a pinch hitter. Last season, VanDaele played in seven games in those roles
"Pitching is the biggest key to success," Jones said. "As long as they stay healthy, this staff has the ability to take us to the next level. You can't win without pitching."
Tulane is counting on a number of things to happen on the mound, including a successful rehabilitation of Nick Bourgeois and Kris Kline, the adjustment of a trio of junior college transfers, as well as the continued progress of returning pitchers Barth Melius and Matt Foster.
Bourgeois, a Baseball America Freshman All-American, had a season plagued with injury, but filled two roles for the Wave. For his efforts Bourgeois was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team. He posted a 1-2 record with a 5.82 ERA. Through 21 2/3 innings, he struck out 30 and walked eight. He hit .286 with 18 RBI. During the off-season, Bourgeois underwent shoulder surgery to repair a problem with his pitching arm.
Redshirt freshman Kris Kline, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season, is showing continued success and should see time on the mound in 2001.
Aubrey, a hard throwing lefty, had a flourishing summer on the mound for the US Junior National Team. Through 10 2/3 innings, he recorded 10 strikeouts and posted a 2.53 ERA. Opponents hit .229 against Aubrey.
Richardson, a transfer from San Mateo Community College, spent last summer in the Kansas Jayhawk League. In 2000, Richardson was named an All-Coast Conference selection and played in the Northern California Junior College All-Star game.
Ponnequin transferred to Tulane from Sacramento City Community College and played in the Northern California Junior College All-Star game.
Corona, a Moorpark Community College transfer, played for Anchorage in the Alaska Summer League. Corona was a 36th round pick by the Baltimore Orioles in 2000.
Continued success by senior Barth Melius and sophomore Matt Foster is another key to a strong season. Melius had the best season of his Tulane career as he compiled a 4-5 record. Of the returning pitchers, Melius brings the most innings of work from last season with 82 2/3 innings. Last season Melius had a 4.02 ERA with 62 strikeouts.
Foster was the only freshman last season to pitch a complete game. Against Nicholls State, Foster went nine innings, scattered four hits and gave up one run. Last season, he was 3-2 and recorded 33 strikeouts in 68 innings of work.
Also adding depth to the Wave staff are redshirt freshman Keith Hennegan and sophomore Steven Blades. Hennegan showed the most improvement of any pitcher during the fall and is expected to make an impact this season.
Blades made four appearances for the Wave last season. This year Blades has dropped down to a side arm delivery much like All-American closer Brandon Belanger.
Tulane is a bit unsettled behind the plate this season, as the Green Wave returns no catchers from last season.
"This year our catchers are young and unproven, but fortunately very talented," Jones said.
Freshmen Wyn Spencer and Matt Mann had strong fall performances, proving they both have sound defensive skills. Spencer hails from Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, La., where he was a part of three state championship teams. Last season, Spencer received all-state and all-district honors in 2000.
Native New Orleanian Mann comes to Tulane from Isidore Newman. He played on the 2000 Louisiana High School Championship team and received tournament MVP honors.
Junior college transfer Andrew Bouman brings experience and adds depth to the catcher's position. At Riverside Community College, Bouman hit .448 with five homeruns and 48 RBI and played in the California Junior All-Star game.
Also vying for a starting position is freshman Scott Madden who hails from Jesuit High School in New Orleans.
"This club has the ability to score runs and play strong defense," Jones said. "Maturity and a healthy pitching staff are the keys to this club."
Tulane opens the 2001 campaign the first weekend of February with a three-game home series with Sam Houston State. The Green Wave also hosts Temple and Pepperdine before traveling to Los Angeles, Calif., for a series with UCLA. Georgia State and Siena travel to Turchin Stadium and round out Tulane's non-conference opponents.
The Green Wave's midweek games feature schools from the strong baseball state of Louisiana including defending National Champions LSU and College World Series team Louisiana-Lafayette. Once again Tulane is scheduled to play both cross-town rival UNO and LSU at Zephyr Field.
Conference USA play begins on March 16 at Turchin Stadium against South Florida. Other home C-USA series include Houston, UAB and Memphis. The annual Turchin Stadium Grand Slam weekend is scheduled for March 23 when the Wave takes on Cincinnati.
On May 16-20, Zephyr Field will serve as the host venue for the 2001 Conference USA Tournament. This is the third time in Conference USA's six-year history, that Tulane has hosted the championship.
"It is important that we perform well in and out of conference play," Jones comments. "Our club has never finished lower than second in Conference USA."