March 21, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - After five weeks of squaring off against non-conference opponents, eight of the nine Conference USA squads open league play this weekend, and the Tulane baseball squad is hosting their first C-USA games of the 2013 season against Memphis on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
The Green Wave have battled through injuries so far this season, posting a 12-11 record. They dropped a game to New Orleans on Tuesday, 5-4, after taking two of three games last weekend over Texas-San Antonio.
"We've just got to play a lot better," said Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. "We have to be a lot tougher. Memphis is a good club. We haven't been a good offensive club most days if you look at our numbers. We have to pitch, and we have to play defense."
The Tigers of Memphis are 12-8 during the 2013 campaign, earning a 18-4 victory over Tennessee-Martin on Tuesday. Last weekend, Memphis dropped two of three games to Kent State, and before that, they split a two-game midweek series against Alabama.
This weekend, Tulane will use the same starting rotation they used against UTSA in redshirt sophomore righty Tony Rizzotti, senior right-hander Alex Byo and senior southpaw David Napoli to the mound on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Memphis will use three straight junior lefties this weekend when they pit Sam Moll against Rizzotti, Erik Schoenrock against Byo and Alex Gunn against Napoli.
Rizzotti is coming off a game in which he was credited with the loss when Tulane dropped the opening tilt of the UTSA series, 3-2, last Friday. Despite the loss, Rizzotti pitched well, going 8.0 innings and striking out four. All three runs in that contest were unearned. On the season, the Arlington, Texas, native is 3-2 with a 0.95 ERA - tied for 26th in the nation - to go along with his 29 strikeouts in 38.0 innings. Moll - a preseason All-Conference USA Team selection - is living up to his hype, posting a 4-1 record in five starts. He has a 2.64 ERA in 30.2 innings, and has notched 43 strikeouts, good for a tie for eighth overall in the nation.
Byo did not allow an earned run in his last start, a 2-1 win over UTSA last Saturday. In that contest, the Baton Rouge, La., native pitched 7.0 innings, striking out five and allowing six hits. During his senior campaign, Byo has a 2-2 record with a 1.23 ERA - tied for 48th in the nation - with 25 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. Two weeks ago, he pitched his first career complete game in a losing effort when the Greenies dropped a 4-2 tilt to High Point. Schoenrock - who is the son of Memphis head coach Daron Schoenrock - is 2-1 on the year with a 2.76 ERA in 32.2 innings. He has walked a team-high 12 batters, but is second on the pitching staff in strikeouts with 32.
The Sunday matchup will mark Napoli's third start of the season. On a pitch count last weekend due to an injury he sustained earlier in the year, Napoli only went 3.0 innings, but strikeout five and allowed only one run. In 13.2 innings, the Newman product has struck out 16 and walked seven. He has a 1-1 record with a 1.98 ERA. Gunn owns the nation's 16th-best ERA of 0.72 in 25 innings of play. He is 1-1 on the year with 16 strikeouts and two walks.
Senior Brennan Middleton continues to lead the team in hitting with an average of .323, but fellow senior Sean Potkay is drastically increasing his average, coming into the series batting .308. The Bozeman, Mont., native blasted his second home run of the season on Tuesday, and he is second on the team in RBIs with 15. He also hit his 11th double of the season on Tuesday, and he currently sits at seventh in the nation in that category. Potkay has walked 18 times on the year, good for 32nd overall in the country. As a squad, the Greenies are batting .250.
The Tigers boast a team batting average of .272, paced by Keaton Aldridge's .344. He has also added one homer and six RBIs on the year. Tucker Tubbs is second on the team with a .324 average, and he is tied for the team lead in RBIs with 14. Jake Little holds a .318 average, and he sits atop the team leaderboard with three home runs.
Tulane's pitching staff has a team ERA of 3.00, thanks in part to freshman reliever Ian Gibaut's 1.56 mark. He has notched three saves on the season, as has junior Andrew Garner. Both have 1-0 records. Gibaut is third on the team with 18 strikeouts in only 17.1 innings.
Memphis comes into the series with a 2.93 ERA, and is lead out of the bullpen by Conner Porter and Jonathan Van Eaton. Porker holds a 2.81 ERA with two saves and 14 strikeouts while Van Eaton leads the team with four saves. Jon Reed and Heith Hatfield have posted double-digit strikeouts out of the bullpen with 15 and 11, respectively.
Daron Schoenrock is in his ninth season with the Tigers, and he has a career record of 245-312. He was previously an assistant at Mississippi State and Georgia.
Tulane leads the all-time series with the Tigers, 47-36. Rick Jones is 38-14 against Memphis during his 20-year tenure on the Uptown campus. Last season, Tulane took two of three against the Tigers in Memphis.
Fans can tune into Tulane's flagship station, 106.1 The Ticket, to listen to the live broadcasts for Friday and Sunday's contests. Saturday's game will be made available to All-Access members only on TulaneGreenWave.com. All weekend, fans can follow live stats on TulaneGreenWave.com.
You can follow the Tulane baseball program on Twitter (@GreenWaveBSB) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball.