Senior Alex Byo will take the mound on Saturday for the Green Wave
Feb. 14, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane will begin their season on the road for the first time since 2006 when they travel to San Marcos, Texas, to participate in the Texas State Tournament, hosted by Texas State.
On Friday, the Greenies will face Sam Houston State at 6pm CT on Feb. 15, followed by a game against Texas State on Feb. 16 at 1pm CT before closing their weekend out with a tilt against Missouri State at 11am CT on Feb. 17.
"Opening weekend is always exciting, and this is no different," said Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. "This is going to be a very challenging weekend. All three of these teams are predicted to finish at the top of their respective leagues. They all feature outstanding pitching and veteran position players. I think this will be one of the more challenging weekends that we'll have."
Tulane is returning five of their top seven hitters from a team that led Conference USA in batting last year. Seniors Brennan Middleton (IF - .357, 19 RBI), Brandon Boudreaux (OF - .330, 8 HR, 36 RBI), Blake Crohan (IF - .320, 2 HR, 21 RBI), Sean Potkay (IF/ OF - .313, 5 HR, 29 RBI) and Garrett Cannizaro (IF - .305, 4 HR, 42 RBI) will be back for the Greenies this season.
On the mound, the Green Wave will be returning every pitcher who started a game last year. David Napoli (7-3, 2.86 ERA), Alex Byo (9-4, 3.38 ERA), Kyle McKenzie (4-2, 2.86 ERA), Andrew Reeves (2-2, 3.61 ERA), Alex Massey (3-1, 3.86 ERA), Randy LeBlanc (2-2, 5.86 ERA) and Tyler Mapes (1-3, 6.75 ERA) will take to the mound throughout the course of the year.
Three freshman who could see significant time during the year are Tim Yandel, Cameron Burns and Richard Carthon. Burns is a catcher out of Bellaire, Texas, and he attended the same high school that produced former Tulane catcher Jeremy Schaffer. Yandel - a Woodstock, Ga. native - will see time in both the infield and outfield. Carthon, who doubles as a defensive back and kick returner for the Tulane football team, will play in the outfield.
Last season, Tulane ranked first among its Conference USA counterparts in five offensive categories: fewest strikeouts (305), batting average (.305), slugging percentage (.445), on-base percentage (.398) and doubles (121).
Jones - who earned career win number 1,050 during the season finale of last year's campaign - is returning for his 20th season of Green Wave baseball. In addition to Chad Sutter and Jake Gautreau - former players who are now assistant coaches - another familiar face will be pacing the dugout this season. Former Green Wave star pitcher Shooter Hunt is returning as an assistant coach after former assistant James Jurries took a similar position with the University of New Orleans over the summer.
This weekend, Tulane will send right handed redshirt sophomore Tony Rizzotti to the mound to open the season against SHSU. Rizzotti transferred from Grayson College - where he did not participate in baseball due to injury. In 2011, he pitched for TCU, appearing out of the bullpen six times as a true freshman. On Saturday against Texas State, Byo will take the hill. During Sunday's tilt against Missouri State, Tulane will rely on McKenzie to get the job done from a pitching standpoint.
"We chose our starting pitchers based on their performances during fall ball and the preseason," added Jones. "They all really pitched well. We have a really deep pitching staff, but our rotation was chosen on merit."
Sam Houston State was the 2012 Southland Conference Champions, and was invited to the NCAA Houston Regionals, where they made the finals. As a team, they batted .295, led by returning player Anthony Azar's .354. On the mound, the team held a 3.42 ERA while notching 362 strikeouts. Caleb Smith, a junior lefty, is their top returning pitcher. In 2012, he posted a 3.00 ERA while going 8-5 with 80 strikeouts. As a team, the Bearkats finished the season with a 40-22 record.
Texas State finished 2012 with a 32-24 record. After winning the Southland Conference three years in a row, the Bobcats were eliminated by Stephen F. Austin. As a team, they batted .254 on the year, and their top returner - Andrew Stumph - hit .253 with three homers and 28 RBIs. Their pitching staff was remarkable, with a team ERA of 3.02. Kyle Finnegan will lead the staff this year after a campaign in which he went 5-6 with a 3.28 ERA.
Missouri State went 40-22 in 2012, and participated in the NCAA Coral Gables Regional. The team will be led by NCAA All-Regional team member Keenen Maddox - who batted .324 with eight homers and 36 RBIs. Their pitching staff led the nation in ERA with an ERA of 2.57 and was third in strikeouts-per-nine innings with 8.7. Nick Petree, a junior right-handed pitcher, led the nation with a 1.01 ERA, throwing 115.3 innings and striking out 114.
Tulane opened the 2011 season against Sam Houston State, winning 3-2 at Turchin Stadium. It was the last time the two teams played, and Tulane leads the overall series, 5-1. Tulane has never faced Texas State or Missouri State.
The games on Friday and Sunday can be heard on Tulane's new flagship station, WMTI FM 106.1. Live audio during Saturday's game will be available on-line at www.TulaneGreenWave.com to paid members of the All-Access Pass.
You can follow Green Wave baseball on Twitter (@GreenWaveBSB) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball.