Feb. 13, 2014
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane's baseball program will kickoff the 2014 season over the weekend with four contests against Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium, including the season-opener at 1 pm CT on Friday, Feb. 14.
Saturday will feature a doubleheader against the Golden Lions, with the first game starting at 10:30am CT, and the second game following 40 minutes after the conclusion of the first. Sunday's game will begin at 1pm CT.
The first contest on Saturday, as well as the games on Friday and Sunday, will be broadcast on the home of Tulane baseball for the 2014 season, WRBH 88.3 FM. Game two of the doubleheader on Saturday - as well as all Tulane Green Wave baseball games - will be made available to All-Access Pass holders at TulaneGreenWave.com.
The Green Wave are eager to play another opponent after having spent the better part of the last month intrasquading, giving the Green Wave coaching staff an opportunity to see their prospects. With the graduation of five everyday-position players from the 2013 season in Blake Crohan, Sean Potkay, Brennan Middleton, Garrett Cannizaro and Brandon Boudreaux, fans can be sure to see new faces in the lineup this season.
In addition to the fielders, the Green Wave will see a reworked pitching staff, as the three mainstays in the weekend rotation from 2013 were all drafted by Major League Baseball squads last June. Tony Rizzotti (San Diego Padres), David Napoli (Washington Nationals) and Alex Byo (Arizona Diamondbacks) have all traded in their Olive and Blue jerseys for a chance to play at the Major League level.
Fortunately for the Green Wave, the team secured one of the top recruiting classes in the nation this past year, according to Baseball America and Perfect Game. The Tulane coaching staff, led by Rick Jones, will use those pieces to assemble a roster that the coaches hope will bring Tulane back to the NCAA Regionals.
Tulane has three returning position players who will see significant time throughout the 2014 campaign. Conference USA All-Freshman team member Richard Carthon will patrol the outfield for the Green Wave as he did last season. The sophomore from Shreveport, La., batted .264 with one home run, eight doubles and 14 stolen bases in his rookie campaign. Senior Andrew Garner will see time in the outfield, at the designated hitter spot and as a relief pitcher. In 2013, Garner was second on the team in hitting with a .283 average while also posting two home runs and 35 RBI. Lastly, fans can be sure to see senior infielder/outfielder Bowen Woodson at a variety of spots this season. The native of Vicksburg, Miss., has started over 100 games in his career at second base, but could see time in the outfield or even first base this year. Woodson owned a .249 batting average last year with one home run, 22 RBI and five stolen bases. In terms of new faces, freshmen Stephen Alemais, Jake Rogers, Hunter Hope and Grant Brown figure to play a part in Tulane's resurgence this season, along with junior college transfers Tyler Wilson and Garrett Deschamp.
The weekend's pitching staff will be bookended by two local freshman, while two seasoned veterans will get the ball during Saturday's doubleheader. J.P. France, a righty from Archbishop Shaw, will become the first freshman to start at pitcher on opening day in the Rick Jones-era, and the first since Ivan Zweig did so back on Feb. 17, 1991 in a 5-0 win over Spring Hill. France fanned 113 batters in 64.1 innings during his senior year for Shaw while going 7-1 with a 0.37 ERA.
On Sunday, former Lutcher standout Corey Merrill will get the ball. The 6-4, 225 pound righty helped the Lutcher Bulldogs win the 2013 LHSAA State Championship during his senior year after going 4-1 with a 0.70 ERA. Merrill, like France, was named to the All-State team for his work on the mound in 2013.
LeBlanc filled in admirably as a weekend starter towards the end of last season after pitching lights out against in-state rivals ULL, ULM and LSU during midweek games during the latter half of the 2013 campaign. Overall, the Abita Springs, La., native started 10 contests in 2013, posting a 4-4 record with a 4.60 ERA in 62.2 innings. He held opponents to a batting average of just .262.
Mapes is coming off Tommy John surgery after suffering an elbow injury during a contest at Nicholls State in February of last season. The Plano, Texas, native pitched well in the spring after sitting out all fall while recovering from the injury. Mapes went 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA in three appearances last season. In just 10.1 innings, he fanned 13 batters, including six in just 3.1 innings against the Colonels before suffering the injury.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff is coming off a year in which they went 21-32 overall and 13-11 in SWAC-play. The Golden Eagles hit .248 as a team last year, while their pitching staff posted an ERA of 4.30. The team returns four everyday starters, as well as four of their starting pitchers.
Senior second baseman Isias Alcantar is the top returning hitter for the Golden Eagles. In 2013, he hit .345 with six home runs and 44 RBI while earning SWAC Player of the Year honors. Alcantar will be joined on the right side of the infield by returning senior first baseman Kirby Campbell, who hit .288 with 19 RBI last year. The Golden Lions are hoping that junior college transfer Andre Davis will play a big factor in their batting order, as well as on the mound as a lefty reliever.
UAPB will feature four straight righties on the hill over the weekend, as they will send senior Kyle Schwartz, redshirt sophomore Felix Baez Pool, senior Mikey Ramirez and junior Dixon Marble to face the Green Wave hitters in the first four games of the season. Schwartz was arguably the top pitcher for the Golden Lions last season, going 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 79.1 innings. Ramirez was just as sharp, going 3-3 with a 4.22 ERA in 70.1 innings with 48 strikeouts and only 15 walks.
Baez Pool and Marble did not pitch in 2013.
Jones is in his 21st season with the Green Wave, and he holds a record of 804-429-2 at Tulane. Under his tutelage, the Green Wave have gone 15-5 on Opening Day during the last 20 seasons.
UAPB is skippered by Carlos James, who is in his fourth season with the Golden Eagles. He is 40-104-1 in his four years at the helm of the program.
This marks the first meeting between the two programs. Tulane will only play one other opponent this season for the first time in program history when they square off against San Francisco in four weeks.
Season ticket and single game tickets for the 2014 Tulane baseball season are now on sale. Interested parties can call 504-861-WAVE (9283) for more information on tickets, or they may visit the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center's first floor ticket office.
Fans can follow the Tulane baseball program on Twitter (@GreenWaveBSB) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball.