May 9, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - With just two weeks left during the regular season, Tulane's baseball team will travel to Orlando to square off against Conference USA rival UCF in a three game series this Friday, Saturday and Sunday before returning home for their final regular season series against UAB.
Friday's contest will start at 5:30pm CT, while Saturday's tilt will begin at 3pm CT. The final game of the series will begin at 12pm CT on Sunday. All three games will be broadcast on 88.3 FM, and live stats can be followed on TulaneGreenWave.com.
The Greenies are coming off an 8-7 victory over Nicholls State this past Tuesday night, a game in which they were up 6-0 and 8-2 at different points. Because of an injury to normal Friday night starter Tony Rizzotti, Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones and his staff used five different arms against the Colonels in order to preserve starter Randy LeBlanc's arm for the Sunday game of the weekend series against UCF. In the contest against Nicholls, the Tulane bats collected ten hits, giving the team double digit hits in four of their last six games. The Green Wave defense played strong, as they turned five double plays in the game, the first time a Tulane team fielded four or more double plays since they did so in a game against UAB in February 2003.
The win against Nicholls brought Tulane's overall record to 25-24. With a record of 8-10 in Conference USA play, they are entrenched in seventh place in the standings.
UCF is coming off a 4-0 Wednesday night victory over Bethune-Cookman. They had their conference bye last weekend, and instead of taking the weekend off, they played Florida State in a three-game set, losing all three contests. On the year, UCF is 27-22, and currently sit tied for second place in the C-USA standings with an 11-7 record.
Because of the aforementioned injury to Rizzotti, he will not be taking his normal spot in the rotation as the Friday night starter. Instead, senior Alex Byo will move up a day and pitch against UCF's Ben Lively. Byo had a strong outing last Saturday in a victory over the Houston Cougars. In that contest, the Baton Rouge, La., native pitched 7.1 innings of action, striking out two and allowing eight hits. On the season, the righty is 3-4 with a 2.89 ERA. He has notched 41 strikeouts in 74.2 innings of action.
Lively is arguably UCF's top pitcher, as he has posted a record of 6-3 with a miniscule ERA of 1.26. In 86 innings this season, he has recorded 85 strikeouts, and opponents are only hitting .207 off him.
On Saturday, senior David Napoli will move up a day from his normal spot in the rotation. Last Sunday, Napoli continued his outstanding senior season by only allowing three hits spread out over 8.0 innings. On the season, batters have had trouble hitting him, as he holds an opponent's batting average of .161, tops in C-USA. On the season, the southpaw has been crucial for the Greenies, posting an ERA of 2.08 and a record of 4-2. He has only allowed 30 hits over 56.1 innings.
UCF will also throw a lefty on Saturday, as Chris Matulis will take the mound for the Knights. The LSU transfer is 5-3 on the year with a 3.56 ERA. He is second on the team in innings pitched with 73.1 and strikeouts with 58.
LeBlanc - who only pitched 3.0 innings on Tuesday against Nicholls State - will get the nod on Sunday for his first weekend start of the season. The Abita Springs, La., native only threw 31 pitches in the contest against the Colonels earlier this week. On the season, LeBlanc is 4-3 with a 4.66 ERA with 25 strikeouts.
UCF has yet to name a starter for Sunday's game, but Danny Davis (4-2, 3.12 ERA), Brian Adkins (3-6, 4.23 ERA) and Eric Skoglund (1-3, 4.81 ERA) have all started seven or more games this season.
At the dish, Tulane raised their batting average to .240 after the aforementioned streak of double digit hit games. Once again, senior Brennan Middleton's batting average of .296 paces the team, but quite a few Greenies have raised their averages as of late. Junior Andrew Garner - who had the night off against Nicholls State - has an eight-game hitting streak to his name, and now owns a batting average of .271. Senior Sean Potkay is third on the team with a .267 average.
Junior Nick DiMaggio has been a tremendous surprise for the Greenies, as he has started the last seven games after only recording two other starts in his career - both coming earlier this year. While he hasn't recorded enough at-bats on the year to register for the team lead in batting average, he has hit .295 this year in 16 games played. He, too, will carry an eight-game hitting streak into the weekend.
UCF is hitting .258 as a squad, and are led by Chris Taladay's .358 average. Taladay also leads the team with 37 RBIs and is fourth on the team with three home runs. Erik Hempe holds a batitng average of .321, but after that, their next leading hitter is Parker Webster, who hits at a clip of .264. Jeramy Matos leads the club with eight home runs, and James Vazquez has six four baggers to his name.
The UCF bullpen is led by Zac Favre, who has recorded 28 appearances on the season. In 46.0 innings this season, he has recorded four saves and 51 strikeouts.
Tulane's bullpen is of course anchored by true freshman Ian Gibaut. The Houston native notched his 11th save of the season on Tuesday against Nicholls State, and he sits behind only two other freshman in the entire nation in regards to rookies with saves.
The Knights are skippered by Terry Rooney, a former pitching coach at LSU. He is 166-119 in his fifth season in Orlando.
Jones, who is in his 20th season with the Green Wave, has 799 victories as the head coach at Tulane. When he earns his 800th win, he will join an elite group of just 14 active coaches who have 800 or more wins at their current school. The list includes Gene Stephenson (Wichita State), Mike Martin (Florida State), Mark Marquees (Stanford), Pete Dunn (Stetson), Jim Gilligan (Lamar), John Anderson (Minnesota), Keith Guttin (Missouri State), Wayne Graham (Rice), Gary Powers (Nevada), Fred Hill (Rutgers), Bill Brown (George Mason), Jim Morris (Miami (FL)), Jack Leggett (Clemson) and Danny Hall (Georgia Tech).
After this weekend, the Green Wave will return home to play UAB at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium for the last three games of the regular season.
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