May 2, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane's baseball team will host the Houston Cougars for a pivotal three-game Conference USA series this weekend at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium, with both teams looking to set themselves apart from one another in the league standings.
Friday's 6:30pm CT start will be broadcast on 88.3 FM, as will Sunday's 1pm CT tilt. Saturday's 2pm CT can be heard on 106.1 The Ticket. Live stats will be made available through TulaneGreenWave.com.
Both teams sit at 7-8 in the Conference USA standings, which ties them at sixth place. After starting the season 21-4, garnering top-30 rankings from most of the major polls, Houston has cooled off considerably, going 7-13 since then for an overall record of 28-17. They are coming off a Tuesday win against Louisiana-Lafayette after losing six straight games against UCF, Texas and Rice.
Tulane, on the other hand, is coming off their second three-win streak of the season after sweeping a doubleheader against Marshall last Saturday and winning a 1 hour and 47 minute contest against New Orleans at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium on Wednesday evening - the fastest game in school history since Tulane started keeping records of time in 1994. They were set to play Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday, but the game was called due to inclement weather. On the year, the Greenies are 23-22.
Friday's contest will see redshirt sophomore Tony Rizzotti pitch against Cougars' hitters, while Houston will throw Daniel Poncedeleon. Rizzotti threw his shortest outing of the season last Friday against Marshall, getting a no decision after tossing 5.0 innings, allowing five hits and striking out eight in a 4-3 Greenie loss in 11 innings. On the year, the Arlington, Texas, native has tossed 73.2 innings, with 54 strikeouts and only 18 walks. Opponents are only batting .223 against him, while he has posted a 5-3 record and a 1.83 ERA.
Poncedeleon, a junior, is 5-4 on the year with a 4.38 ERA. In his start last Friday against UCF, he allowed three earned runs off five hits in 7.2 innings in a losing effort, despite striking out seven. On the year, he has notched 55 strikeouts in 61.2 innings, while opponents are hitting .271 off him.
Saturday's contest will be one between two seniors, as Tulane's Alex Byo will be up against Houston's Austin Pruitt. Byo pitched one of the toughest games of his career in game one of last Saturday's doubleheader, as he was hit in the foot off a line drive very early in the contest. However, he stayed in the game to pitch 8.0 innings, scattering five hits and striking out four in Tulane's 11 inning victory over the Thundering Herd. The Baton Rouge native is 2-4 with a 2.94 ERA in 67.1 innings, while striking out 39 and walking only 18. He holds opponents to a batting average of .264.
Pruitt is arguably Houston's top pitcher, posting a record of 7-4 to go along with a 2.56 ERA. Last Saturday, though, he had a rough outing by allowing ten hits to UCF batters over 8.0 innings, and striking out only four. His season numbers are much better, as he has struck out 73 while only allowing 17 walks and holding opponents to a .220 batting average over 84.1 innings.
Houston has yet to name a starter for the Sunday contest, but they'll have to be on the money, as Tulane senior David Napoli is getting the ball on that day. Napoli has been sharp since returning from an early season injury, as he has held hitters to a miniscule .168 batting average. In his 48.1 innings of action, he has allowed only 27 hits, while striking out 38 for a 4-2 record and a 2.05 ERA. During the rubber match in the second game of the doubleheader against Marshall last Saturday, Napoli pitched 6.2 innings, allowing seven hits while striking out five.
At the plate, the Greenies are hitting .234. While his batting average has dropped a little as of late, senior Brennan Middleton still holds the highest batting average on the squad at .293, and he also leads the team with 54 hits. Senior Sean Potkay has picked his average up to .263, and is coming off his ninth-multi hit game of the season as he recorded two base knocks against UNO on Wednesday. Junior Andrew Garner had a base hit against UNO, as well, as he extended his current hitting streak to five games. Freshman Richard Carthon and junior Nick DiMaggio have identical hitting streaks of four games each. Carthon leads the team with ten stolen bases, as well.
The Cougars are hitting .264 as a team, and are led by Justin Montemayor's .314 average. He Michael Pyeatt boasts an average of .307, while Kyle Survance is hitting .292 for the third best mark on the team. Montemayor and Caleb Barker are tied for the team lead in home runs with three each, while Frankie Ratliff leads the team in RBIs with 36. On the base paths, Survance and Josh Vidales have double digit stolen bases with 15 and 13, respectively.
Tulane's pitching staff holds an ERA of 3.20, and is led by star freshman Ian Gibaut, who has a Tulane freshman-record 10 saves to go along with his 2.10 ERA. Junior Kyle McKenzie, who started the season on the mound, has been a key cog out of the bullpen as of late, posting a 2-2 record on the season with a 3.89 ERA.
Houston has four pitchers who have recorded saves on the year, but Chase Wellbrock's seven lead the way. Wellbrock has an ERA of 4.70 in 30.2 innings, and the bullpen only has one pitcher with an ERA lower than 2.00: Daniel Smith (1.69). As a staff, the Cougars have posted an ERA of 3.82.
The Cougars are led by Todd Whitting, who is in his third year at his alma mater. Tulane's Rick Jones is three wins shy of his 800th win during his tenure head coach of the Green Wave. Once he accomplishes that feat, he will be one of only 15 active head coaches who have 800 or more wins at their current school.
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