Rick Jones Enters His 19th Season as the Head Coach of the Green Wave Baseball Program
Feb. 10, 2012
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NEW ORLEANS - Tulane head baseball coach Rick Jones addressed the media in the programs annual "Media Day" on Friday, Feb. 10 to talk about the upcoming 2012 season and the sport of college baseball. With the season just one week away, here is your first view of what the Green Wave baseball roster looks like entering Jones' 19th season on the Uptown campus.
Jones enters his 19th season - his 26th overall as a collegiate head coach - and will look to lead his program back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2008 season. In 12 of his 18 seasons at the helm, Tulane has advanced to the NCAA Postseason, including three Super Regional berths and trips to the College World Series in 2001 and 2005.
The winningest coach in Tulane history, Jones has compiled a 735-377-2 record at the helm of the Olive and Blue and, just last season, won his 1000th career game as a collegiate head coach. On April 8, 2011, the Chatham, N.C. native claimed his 1000th victory with a 10-8 victory at UCF and when the 2011 season ended his coaching record sat at 1012-474-3.
His coaching staff is comprised of three former Tulane players; Jake Gautreau, James Jurries and Chad Sutter. Sutter holds the title of associate head coach and is charged with handling the Green Wave pitching staff, along with aiding Gautreau with the recruiting efforts. Gautreau heads Tulane's recruiting efforts as the programs recruiting coordinator, tutors the infielders and is a mentor to the squad's hitters. The outfield duties are delegated to Jurries, who also works with the team's hitters and acts as a liaison for all of the programs camps.
After a depleted starting staff hampered the Green Wave down the stretch last season, Tulane has seen the emergence of solid contingent of arms during the fall and early spring practices. After suffering injuries last season, redshirt-freshman Randy LeBlanc and redshirt-sophomore Kyle McKenzie have each returned to the mound. LeBlanc made three starts last season before suffering his injury, tossing 15 2/3 innings with 22 strikeouts, five walks and a 2.87 ERA. McKenzie managed five starts before the injury bug ended his season, but he managed to post a 2-2 record in 23.1 innings of work with 25 strikeouts and 4.63 ERA.
Alex Byo was a steady hand in the starting rotation a season ago and looks to build on his team-best 3.32 ERA that equated into a 3-2 record. Byo's ten starts and 59 2/3 innings of work are the most by any returning player, while he held opponents to a .252 batting average against in 15 total appearances. David Napoli made 18 appearances, with five starts, and is the top returning strikeout man for the Olive and Blue. The Newman High School product fanned 58 batters in 56 innings to go along with a 3.86 ERA.
Newcomers Alex Massey and Tyler Mapes will have also thrown their names into the hat and will challenge for starts on the mound this season. Last season, Massey was pitching for Catholic (Baton Rouge) High School and has impressed in limited action on the mound during preseason practices. Massey was rated as the 49th best rookie prospect in college baseball by Baseball America and was a 27th round pick by the Boston Red Sox in last June's MLB draft. A main cog in Navarro College's run to the JUCO National Championships last season, Mapes boasted a 10-2 overall record with a 1.37 ERA in over 100 innings of work. The right-hander made a stop at the Naval Academy before heading to Navarro and was drafted in the 49th round by the New York Yankees last season.
It was Bob Lemon that said, "I've come to the conclusion that the two most important things in life are good friends and a good bullpen," but the Green Wave will hope to make more enemies than friends with their bullpen in 2012. On top of having the services of some of the aforementioned starting hurlers, Tulane has a core of viable options out of the bullpen.
Alex Facundus was one of the top relievers in Conference USA last season and earned Freshman All-American honors after leading the team with eight victories (8-2 record) and making a team-best 29 appearances. His 29 appearances rank tenth on the Tulane single season charts and the rookie limited opponents to just a .225 batting average. D.J. Ponder will enter his senior season and look to make a bigger impact than he did a season ago when he compiled a 3-1 record in 17 appearances. Ponder, who missed fall practice as a member of the Green Wave football program, threw a career-high 28 innings in 2011 and will look to improve upon that number this season.
Andrew Garner and Greg Miller are the only other bullpen returners for Tulane, but Tucker Oakley and Andrew Reeves each arrive at Tulane with college experience on the mound and left-hander Jordan Gross arrives on campus after a standout prep career. Garner threw nearly 30 innings as a true freshman, ended the year with a 5.40 ERA and 16 strikeouts, while Miller - a knuckleball aficionado - logged 11 innings in seven appearances.
Oakley joins the program from Weatherford (Texas) College and will look to step into the long line of successful two-way players at Tulane. On the mound, Oakley threw 70 innings as a sophomore at WC with 69 hits allowed and 64 strikeouts. Reeves travels to the Uptown campus from LSU-Eunice where he helped the Bengals win the 2010 NJCAA National Title. In 2011, Reeves was a mainstay on the mound for LSUE, posting a 9-4 record, 2.59 ERA and 71 strikeouts.
Gross is another prospect to venture to the Crescent City from the Northeast corner of the United State, prepping at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey. The southpaw helped the Ironmen win the Bergen County Championship during his senior season before he was taken by the Boston Red Sox in the 40th round of the 2011 MLB draft.
Tulane will list three catchers on their roster for the 2012 season, with senior Jeremy Schaffer and junior Blake Crohan splitting the duties. Tyler Chamberlain-Simon is also available off the bench for the Olive and Blue. The catcher position has been one of the steadiest for the program during the past three seasons, with Schaffer starting 90-percent of the squad's games behind the plate.
The lone Preseason All-American selection, Schaffer led the team in at-bats (210), runs scored (45), hits (71), home runs (6), RBI's (37), total bases (116), slugging percentage (.552), walks (39) and on-base percentage (.447). The 2011 season was the best statistical season for the catching prospect - setting five career-highs at the plate - and he started all 57 games.
Crohan didn't enjoy the success in 2011 that he enjoyed during his rookie campaign, but will look to rebound with a solid junior season. Though the numbers were not as plentiful in 2011, Crohan still drove in 30 RBIs - third on the team - and scored 33 runs. He owned a .345 on-base percentage, walking 28 times and being hit by a pitch seven times, and committed just three errors in the field.
Chamberlain-Simon had a good preseason and will take care of the bullpen duties, while also being available off of the bench.
If there was one bright spot during a tough 2011 slate, it was the Green Wave defense. Tulane fielded .971 for the season, turning 59 double plays and watching as their infielders committed just 42 of the team's 64 errors. A veteran group enters the 2012 campaign ready to make a statement at the plate and in the field, once again.
The junior trio of Garrett Cannizaro, Brennan Middleton and Quinn Pippin, along with redshirt-sophomore Bowen Woodson leads a group of infielders that has been one of the most competitive during the preseason practices. Cannizaro enters his junior season looking to rebound from a sub-par season at the plate and return to the form he enjoyed as a rookie. Last season, Cannizaro hit just .240, after boasting a .322 clip as a rookie, but did set a career-best with 30 RBI's, which ranked third on the team. Middleton also suffered from the mythical "sophomore slump" when he hit .254 in 2011 and while the batting average didn't fall off that much from his rookie season, the RBI (34 in 2010/14 in 2011) and runs scored (27/19) fell off. The Baton Rouge, La. native is one of the top defenders on the Green Wave squad and, after having a solid summer playing in the Cal Ripken Jr. League, looks to be ready for a solid junior season.
Pippin played behind former Green Wave third baseman Rob Segedin as a rookie and last season saw split time at the position with a host of other players, but is one of the best defenders on the infield. Last season, Pippin played in 46 games (30 starts) and batting .242 with ten RBI's and an on-base percentage of .354. Woodson, who has seen most of his preseason reps in the outfield, will again contribute in both the infield and outfield again this season
A trio of newcomers will look to make their impact on the program in 2012, with Oakley, Troy McCartney and Sean Potkay all arriving on campus in 2012. Oakley, who will also see time on the mound, can swing a pretty good bat, as well. The right-handed hitter pounded out 22 home runs and batted over .300 in two season at Weatherford College, along with a .383 on-base percentage. McCartney played his first two collegiate seasons at McLennan (Texas) Community College and boasted on-base percentages of over .400 during each of those campaigns. The Celina, Texas native pounded out 139 hits and scored 83 runs in 115 games for the Highlanders. Potkay played for the University of Oregon as a true freshman, before redshirting and spending a season at Western Nevada College. Potkay helped the Wildcats to the Scenic West Conference Championship as a sophomore, hitting .325 with 33 RBI's and 31 runs scored.
Tulane will have to replace four-year starter Nick Boullosa in center field, but a seasoned group of outfielders will, no doubt, be up to the task. There are eight experienced players and two newcomers that will all vie for the three starting spots in the outfield. Brandon Boudreaux, Crohan, Frank Florio, Garner, Cody Robinson, Schneeberger, Woodson will all have the chance to pencil their names into the lineup this season.
Boudreaux hit nearly .100-points lower last season than he did during his rookie campaign and has been playing well during the preseason. The Mandeville, La. native is a career .285 hitter, driving in 33 runs and scoring 40 times during his rookie season, while his patience at the plate has translated into 56 walks over the past two seasons. Florio enters his senior season and will look to have an impact in the lineup, while Garner was a summer league all-star, ranking among the leaders in the New England Collegiate Baseball League in average, home runs and RBIs.
Robinson came along nicely near the end of the 2011 season and was one of the biggest power threats in the Cal Ripken, Jr. Summer League, and will look to improve on his .250 batting average from last season. Schneeberger started 16 games in the outfield last season and ranked second on the team in batting average (.301), hits (52) and RBIs (35). The senior also stole seven bases and reached base at a .355 clip in 51 games played.
Woodson is a versatile player that will see time in the infield and outfield after having a breakout first season on the field for Tulane. In 2011, Woodson played in 56 games, ranking second on the team in home runs (3), third on the team in batting average (.272) and was among the leaders in RBIs (28) and runs scored (25).
Crohan will split time in the outfield and behind the plate, as he has the past two seasons. Neal, a freshman from Houston, was a three-time All-Southwest Preparatory Conference selection while at the St. John's School and will also content for time in the outfield. Barrios and Potkay also have the ability to roam the outfield for the Green Wave in 2012.