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Baseball Hits Road for Conference USA Series Against East Carolina

TULANEGREENWAVE.COM Freshman catcher Jake Rogers posted two hits in Wednesday night's game against ULL
TULANEGREENWAVE.COM
Freshman catcher Jake Rogers posted two hits in Wednesday night's game against ULL
TULANEGREENWAVE.COM

March 13, 2014

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NEW ORLEANS - Looking to snap a three-game losing streak, the Tulane baseball program will hit the road by visiting Conference USA rival East Carolina for a three-game series at Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville, N.C. on Friday Saturday and Sunday.

First pitch for the series opener will be at 5:30pm CT, while Saturday's game will begin at 1pm CT. The series finale will begin at noon on Sunday. All three contests will be broadcast on the home of Tulane baseball for 2014, 88.3 FM WRBH. Live stats can be followed on GameTracker at TulaneGreenWave.com.

Tulane has had a busy week, and once the weekend is up, they will have played on both coasts in just a matter of seven days. Last weekend, the Green Wave used a seven-run fifth inning to propel themselves past Cal in the opening game of the Cal Baseball Classic. However, they were then shutout by both Arkansas and San Francisco out on the West Coast for the first consecutive shutouts for the Green Wave since 2002.

On Wednesday evening, Tulane played a solid game against the No. 6 team in the country in Louisiana-Lafayette, but fell to the Ragin' Cajuns, 7-4, at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium. The Tulane bats collected ten hits, and scored four runs in the third inning after trailing at the beginning of the game, but errors led to Tulane's demise on the evening.

Overall this season, Tulane is 9-6. The Green Wave played their initial C-USA series against Louisiana Tech during the second weekend of the season, having taken two out of the three games of that series.

As a squad, the Green Wave are hitting .255, and have collected ten or more hits in six of their 15 contests to date. Tulane is led at the dish by sophomore outfielder Richard Carthon, who has hit to the tune of a .373 average so far this season. Senior outfielder Andrew Garner is hitting .327, while junior Garrett Deschamp - who played first base for the first time in his career on Wednesday night - is hitting .308. Freshman third baseman Hunter Hope is batting .306, while senior Bowen Woodson - who started in centerfield on Wednesday - is hitting .292.

Deschamp has 20 RBI in just 15 games, meaning he is just 15 shy of last year's season-high by a Tulane individual. Hope is second on the squad with 14 RBI. Hope and Garner are tied for the team lead in home runs with two.

Tulane has collected 31 doubles on the season, led by Hope's six. Deschamp and Garner each have five, while Woodson has collected four so far this year.

East Carolina, initially ranked in many of the preseason top-30 polls, has struggled this year to the tune of an 8-9 record. On Wednesday night, the Pirates dropped a 5-4 contest to in-state rival Wake Forest that was interrupted by an hour-and-a-half rain delay. They dropped a Tuesday night contest to UNC Greensboro, 6-5.

Last weekend, the Pirates opened C-USA play by dropping two of three to Marshall.

The Pirates are hitting .236 as a team, and only one of their everyday players in Zach Houchins (.348) is hitting over .300. Travis Watkins is hitting .360, but he has only seen time in nine games, making eight starts. Ian Townsend leads the team with 10 RBI, while Houchins is the pacesetter in runs with 11. Houchins also holds four of the team's 16 stolen bases.

On Friday night, Tulane will send redshirt senior righty Tyler Mapes to the mound. Mapes made his third start of the season last weekend against Cal, and he couldn't quite get his footing down on the wet mound out in Berkeley, Calif. Mapes plunked four batters in just 3.2 innings of work, while the defense gave up some runs behind him. However, Mapes posted a career-performance against Nicholls State on Feb. 25, striking out seven in 7.0 innings while allowing just one hit. On the season, the Plano, Texas, native is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA, 11 strikeouts and just one walk.

Mapes will be up against ECU ace Jeff Hoffman. Predicted by many to be a first-round pick in the MLB Draft later this year prior to the start of the season, the righty junior has power numbers, but struggled last weekend against Marshall. Hoffman walked seven batters while striking out six in just 3.1 innings of work in a 9-8 loss to the Thundering Herd. Hoffman is 0-2 on the year with a 3.28 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 13 walks in 24.2 innings of work.

Saturday will see redshirt junior Randy LeBlanc return to the bump for the Green Wave. The Abita Springs, La., righty is looking to bounce back after an uncharacteristic performance against No. 24 Arkansas last Saturday in Berkeley, Calif. LeBlanc struck out just one in 4.1 innings while allowing three runs in a 4-0 shutout of the Green Wave. In 2014, LeBlanc has started four contests - the only Tulane pitcher to make starts in every weekend series so far this year - while posting a 2.82 ERA in 22.1 innings of work. He has 21 strikeouts to just five walks while allowing 22 hits.

Tulane will face a southpaw on Saturday, as ECU's Reid Love will get the ball during the second game of the series. Love has struggled with command this year, as he has walked 10 in just 15.1 innings over three starts. However, Love has posted 12 strikeouts, and owns an ERA of just 1.17. He combined with Ryan Williams to shutout the Thundering Herd in ECU's lone win last weekend, as he pitched 5.1 innings, allowing just three hits and fanning five.

Sunday's matchup will feature Tulane freshman phenom J.P. France's return to a starting spot. After bursting onto the scene by becoming the first Tulane freshman pitcher to start on opening day in 23 years, France had troubles in contests against Louisiana Tech and Sacred Heart. The Luling, La., native entered last Saturday's contest in relief of LeBlanc, and he pitched very well out of the bullpen by posting three strikeouts in 2.2 innings. On the year, France is 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA with 17 strikeouts, three walks and 19 hits in 17.2 innings of work.

Righty Brett Mabry will get the start for ECU on Sunday. Mabry pitched 5.0 innings of relief against Marshall last Sunday, striking out two and allowing two hits and two runs (one earned) in a no decision. He picked up a win in relief against Pittsburgh during the first day of March. Mabry has yet to start a contest this year, and is 1-0 with a 1.12 ERA, eight strikeouts and two walks in 16.0 innings.

East Carolina is equipped with one of the top closers in the nation in Drew Reynolds, who owns three saves in six appearances this season. Reynolds, who also hits .270 as an everyday designated hitter, is a preseason All-American, and also earned Second-Team All-American honors last year.

Tulane owns the all-time series record, 26-16, with all 42 contests having come during Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones' tenure. The two teams split four meetings last season, with ECU defeating the Green Wave two out of three during the regular season before Tulane picked up a win against the Pirates during the Conference USA Championship in Houston.

Historically, Tulane is 298-172-2 overall in C-USA contests, meaning the Green Wave could pick up their 300th win in league play with two victories over the Pirates over the weekend.

Fans can follow the Tulane baseball program on Twitter (@GreenWaveBSB) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball.