March 27, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - A day after falling to LSU on Tuesday evening at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium, the Tulane baseball team packed their bags to travel to Houston to face Conference USA rival Rice at Reckling Park.
Instead of the traditional Friday-Sunday series, the games will be played Thursday, Friday and Saturday in order for both teams to be able recognize Easter Sunday.
The Greenies fought hard, but were overpowered by LSU in a 14-1 loss on Tuesday night. The Greenies used six pitchers in that contest, with redshirt sophomore Randy LeBlanc pitching the longest at 3.0 innings. Last weekend, Tulane took two of three against in the opening series of Conference USA play against Memphis. On the season, Tulane sits at 14-13 overall and 2-1 in conference.
Rice got off to a slow start, losing five of their first 11 games. However, they have gone 12-3 since then for a 18-9 record overall. The Owls fell to Sam Houston State, 9-3, on Tuesday night. This past weekend, they took two of three against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Thursday's game will feature two of the nation's top pitchers. Redshirt sophomore Tony Rizzotti will make his seventh straight start to open a weekend series against Rice ace Austin Kubitza. Rizzotti, who will be returning to his home state for the second time this season, is 4-2 with a 1.40 ERA on the year. In 45.0 innings, he has notched 33 strikeouts to only seven walks. Last weekend, the right-hander pitched 7.0 solid innings in a 6-4 win over Memphis. Kubitza, the preseason Conference USA Pitcher of the Year this season, is fourth in the nation with 56 strikeouts in only 38.1 innings of pitching. Despite his strikeout numbers, Kubitza has also walked 20 batters, only five less than Tulane's entire weekend starting rotation combined. Last weekend, Kubitza struggled against the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss, going 5.1 innings and allowing eight runs on seven hits in 5.1 innings in a 10-1 loss.
On Friday, Tulane will roll out senior righty Alex Byo for his seventh start of the season. Byo had a rough outing last week in a 16-0 loss to Memphis, but has put up very strong numbers during the 2013 season. In 40.0 innings, the Baton Rouge, La., native holds a 2.25 ERA with 26 strikeouts and only seven walks. He has posted a 2-3 record on the year. Righty Jordan Stephens will get take the mound for the Owls on Friday. Stephens is 3-2 in six starts with 45 strikeouts to only nine walks in 48.0 innings of play. Stephens struck out seven in 7.0 innings last weekend, and he pitched a combined shutout with the Owls' closer, Zach Lemond.
For the closing game of the series, Tulane will send senior southpaw David Napoli out for his third straight series closing start. Napoli pitched strongly against Memphis last Sunday, striking out four in 5.0 innings in a 3-2 win over Memphis last Sunday. On the year, Napoli has a 2-1 record with a 1.45 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18.2 innings. Rice's Saturday starter will be righty John Simms, who has gone 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA on the year. In 45.1 innings, he has struck out 46 and walked 16. Simms did not earn a decision last week in his start against Southern Miss, but he struck out eight in 6.1 innings.
Tulane is hitting .247 as a team with 46 doubles, good for 48th in the nation. Senior Sean Potkay owns 11 of those doubles, placing him seventh overall in the nation for an individual player. Senior Brennan Middleton has continued to lead the team at the plate, hitting .339. Potkay's average is second on the team at .284.
The Owls are batting .273 as a team. They have two individual hitters in Geoff Perrott (.333) and Michael Aquino (.330) who are batting over .300. Aquino has added five home runs and 18 RBIs, as well.
Tulane's bullpen is led by two-time Louisiana Sports Writers Association Pitcher of the Week Ian Gibaut, who has five saves in 11 appearances on the year. In 20.1 innings, the Houston native has a 1.33 ERA, and opponents are only hitting .194 against him. Junior Andrew Garner is also used out of the bullpen regularly, and he hasn't allowed a run in his 9.1 innings of pitching. As a team, Tulane's ERA is 3.21.
Rice's bullpen is anchored by Lemond, who has made 11 appearances. In 24.2 innings, he has 22 strikeouts and six saves. As a staff, the Owls hold an ERA of 2.73.
Rice leads the all-time series against Tulane, 25-7. Wayne Graham is in his 22nd season with the Owls, and he has a 971-389 record at the school.
All three games will be broadcast live on Tulane baseball's flagship station 106.1 The Ticket. Live stats will be made available through TulaneGreenWave.com.
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