April 11, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - After playing Rice and Southern Miss in Conference USA play on the road the last two weekends, the Tulane Green Wave baseball squad will return home to host a C-USA series when they welcome the East Carolina Pirates to Greer Field at Turchin Stadium on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Friday's 6:30pm CT game will be broadcast on 88.3 FM, as will Sunday's 11am CT tilt. The middle game of the series - to be played at 2pm CT on Saturday - will be broadcast on 106.1 The Ticket. Live stats will be available for all games on TulaneGreenWave.com.
The Greenies are coming off a four-game road swing that took them to Hattiesburg, Miss., to square off against the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss last weekend and Lafayette, La., to play the Ragin' Cajuns this past Tuesday. The Greenies dropped two of three games to Southern Miss, including a 2-0 game on Sunday where senior David Napoli pitched his first career complete game, allowing only three hits. On a brighter note, the Green Wave won their first contest in Lafayette against the Ragin' Cajuns since 2001 when they defeated ULL by a score of 7-5 behind clutch hitting from freshmen Tim Yandel and Richard Carthon as well as a stellar pitching performance from redshirt sophomore Randy LeBlanc.
On the year, the Greenies are one game below .500 with a record of 17-18, including a record of 4-5 in the league. However, with East Carolina coming to town with an overall record of 15-18 and a conference record of 1-5, this is an opportunity for the Green Wave to make some headway in the standings.
"We obviously need to have a good weekend," said Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones. "The league is very bunched together. Had we won on Sunday (against Southern Miss), we would have been tied for first place. For us to be able to achieve our goals, we need to have a good weekend."
ECU has played five straight games against ranked opponents, squaring off twice against 19th ranked North Carolina State and playing a weekend series against Rice, who sits at 18 in the polls. The Pirates went 1-4 in those contests, defeating Rice on April 6 in 13 innings for their lone conference victory. The weekend before that, they were swept by Houston - another nationally ranked team - on the road.
Redshirt sophomore Tony Rizzotti will kick things off on Friday night as he makes his ninth straight weekend opening start of the season. Last week, Rizzotti pitched 7.0 innings against the Golden Eagles, earning his fifth win of the season after striking out five and only allowing three hits in a 3-2 Green Wave win. On the year, Rizzotti is 5-3 with a 1.80 ERA in eight starts. The Arlington, Texas, native has notched 42 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 60.0 innings. Opponents are only hitting .216 off him. Rizzotti's counterpart will be right-handed sophomore Jeff Hoffman, who has notched very strong back-to-back performances. Last week, he went 8.2 innings, striking out eight in a 3-0 loss to Rice. The week prior, he was named C-USA's Co-Pitcher of the Week after tossing a complete game, one-hit shutout against N.C. Central on March 29. On the year, Hoffman is 3-4 with a 3.09 ERA, notching 44 strikeouts in 55.1 innings.
For Saturday's game, Tulane will send senior righty Alex Byo to the mound. Last Saturday against Southern Miss, Byo was performing well until a fourth-inning error by the Tulane infield extended the frame for the Golden Eagles, allowing them to tack on three runs to ultimately win the contest, 6-2. In his senior campaign, Byo has posted a 2-4 record with a 3.08 ERA. In 52.2 innings, he owns 32 strikeouts while walking only 11. The Pirates will start redshirt freshman David Lucroy on Saturday. Opponents are only batting .173 against him, a mark good for third in C-USA. On the year, Lucroy is 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 41.1 innings. He only has nine earned runs to his name this year - ninth in the conference - and his 44 strikeouts are tied for tenth in the league.
Sunday's contest will pit senior southpaw Napoli against ECU's junior righty Ryan Williams. Napoli is 3-2 on the year while making only five starts. In 33.2 innings of play, he has recorded 25 strikeouts and he holds an ERA of just 1.60. Williams is 5-2 on the season with 58.0 innings to his name. He has notched 28 strikeouts while allowing 67 hits.
At the plate, Tulane is batting .241 and is led by senior Brennan Middleton's .319. Freshman Richard Carthon, who has led off for the Greenies during the last six games, is batting .364 in said contests. In the same time frame, senior Brandon Boudreaux is batting .273, but more importantly, has knocked home six runs on six hits.
ECU is batting .270, and like Tulane, has only one hitter with a batting average over .300. Travis Watkins is batting .310 with 13 RBIs. Jay Cannon, Jack Reinheimer and Bryan Bass all sit right below .300 with batting averages of .299, .297 and .291, respectively. As a team, the Pirates have notched 19 home runs.
The Pirates are skippered by Billy Godwin, who is in his eight season at the school. He holds a 268-180-1 record as the head coach at East Carolina. For the six years prior to becoming the head coach at ECU, Godwin was the head coach at junior-college Louisburg College in North Carolina.
The series between the two schools only dates back to 2003, a year after the Pirates joined Conference-USA from the Colonial Athletic Conference. Tulane leads the all-time series 24-14. Last season, the Greenies took two of three games against the Pirates in Greenville, N.C., as well as defeating them in the Conference USA Championships in late May.
Fans can follow the Tulane baseball program on Twitter (@GreenWaveBSB) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball.