May 15, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane baseball's regular season will come to an end this weekend as they host UAB at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium on Thursday, Friday and Saturday - just days before the Conference USA Championships open in Houston.
The Thursday and Friday games will begin at 6:30pm CT, and they will be broadcast on 88.3 WRBH. The Saturday game, which will start at 1pm CT, will be broadcast on 106.1 The Ticket. Prior to the Friday night contest, the team will honor the ten graduating players by presenting them with their diploma. Before Saturday's game, the team will celebrate `Senior Day'.
The Green Wave is playing its best baseball as of late, going 7-3 in their last ten games. Last weekend, they traveled to UCF and took two of three games - one of which was Tulane baseball head coach Rick Jones' 800th win on the Uptown campus. They defeated Nicholls State last Tuesday, and took one game from a visiting Houston the weekend prior. On the season, the Greenies sit at 27-25 with a 10-11 mark in league play. They currently sit in seventh place in the conference standings.
UAB is 20-33 overall, with a conference record of 5-16. They defeated a very good Troy team on Tuesday evening after dropping two of three at Houston last weekend. The Blazers are currently in last place in the conference standings, just one game behind the eighth-place Marshall Thundering Herd. UAB holds the tie-breaker against Marshall, so if the two teams tie once all the dust settles, UAB will earn a berth into the Conference USA Championships next week.
Regular Friday night starter Tony Rizzotti will once again miss a start due to the back strain he suffered against Houston two weeks ago, but it is possible that he makes an appearance out of the bullpen at some point this weekend. The Greenies will use the same pitching rotation they used last weekend against UCF.
Senior righty Alex Byo will get the ball on Thursday night, one week after he pitched his second career complete game in a 8-1 Green Wave win. Byo went the distance, while allowing only five hits and striking out three. On the season, the Baton Rouge, La., native is 4-4 with a 2.69 ERA in 83.2 innings. He has recorded 44 strikeouts to only 22 walks. Byo's counterpart for the contest will be UAB's Cameron Rose. The right-handed junior has made only two starts all season, while making 15 total appearances. He is 0-1 with a 2.97 ERA. In 33.1 innings pitched, he has notched 14 strikeouts while allowing 23 hits. However, opponents are only hitting .195 against him.
On Friday, senior southpaw David Napoli will take to the mound. The lefty pitched only 4.0 innings last Saturday against UCF, allowing four runs on four hits. However, the Greenies ended up winning that contest, 15-9. During his senior campaign, Napoli has a 4-2 record to go along with his 2.54 ERA. In 60.1 innings pitched, he has allowed only 34 hits while striking out 44. He is second in the entire nation in hits allowed per nine innings, giving up only 5.07. He also owns a WHIP of 1.03, 70th in the nation.
Saturday will see redshirt sophomore Randy LeBlanc make his second Conference USA start of the season. Last Sunday, he pitched 5.0 innings while allowing three earned runs, as he was credited with the loss in the lone defeat of the weekend for the Green Wave. LeBlanc, though, has had a solid season as a starter after starting the season in the bullpen. He owns a record of 4-4 with a 4.72 ERA in 53.1 innings. He has recorded 27 strikeouts on the year.
UAB has yet to name their starting pitchers for Friday and Saturday.
The Tulane bats have been as hot as they have been all season as of late, as the team has rattled off four straight double-digit hit games, and they racked up seven double-digit hit games in their last nine contests. As a team, the Greenies have picked up their batting average to .249. Much of that can be attributed to junior Andrew Garner, who went 9-for-15 at the dish last week, including a 5-for-5 game in which he hit for the cycle in last Saturday's contest. Garner is on an 11-game hitting streak, and during that period, he has brought his season batting average up from .213 to .297. Senior Sean Potkay is also hitting at a solid clip, raising his average to .269 after a nice weekend in Orlando.
Senior Brennan Middleton raised his batting average back above the .300 mark during last Friday's game, but he suffered an ankle sprain while running back to first on a pickoff attempt. He is listed as day-to-day.
UAB is hitting .259 as a team, and they are led by John Frost, who is batting .338 on the year. Frost owns 18 doubles and two home runs, as he is slugging .478. Ryan Prinzing is also having a nice season for UAB, as he is batting .324 with three home runs and 28 RBIs. Chase Davis (.307) and Tanner Bryant (.300) are UAB's other two top hitters.
The Blazers are skippered by Brian Shoop, who is in his seventh season at UAB. Prior to this job, he was the head coach at Birmingham-Southern. Legendary Mississippi State coach Ron Polk is a volunteer assistant coach with the Blazers. Shoop coached under Polk in Starkville, Miss., in the 1980s.
Tulane owns the overall series record between the two teams, winning 40 of the 56 games played.
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