Baseball to Open Conference USA Championships Against Southern Miss on Wednesday

TULANEGREENWAVE.COM Redshirt sophomore Tony Rizzotti will make his return to the mound against Southern Miss on Wednesday
Redshirt sophomore Tony Rizzotti will make his return to the mound against Southern Miss on Wednesday

May 21, 2013

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HOUSTON - After an early practice at Reckling Park in Houston for the Green Wave baseball program on Tuesday morning, the seventh-seed Green Wave is ready to square off against Southern Miss in their first game of the Conference USA Championships on Wednesday at 3pm CT.

On Thursday, the Greenies will have the day off before returning to Reckling Park to face ECU for an 11am CT game on Friday morning. They will take to the field on Saturday at 3pm CT to face Houston. The championship game of the tournament will be held at 1pm CT on Sunday.

All games can be heard by tuning into 88.3 FM WRBH, and live stats can be followed on TulaneGreenWave.com. All-Access users can listen to a live audio stream at TulaneGreenWave.com, but to watch a live video feed, one must purchase a subscription to the C-USA Digital Network through ConferenceUSA.com.

The Green Wave earned the seventh seed of the championships following a 28-27 season, where they went 11-13 in league play. Each team they will face in their pod took two of three games against the Greenies during the regular season.

Despite last weekend's series against UAB, Tulane has been playing its best baseball as of late. They managed to score 15 runs in the second game of the series against UCF, and did so again two days later in the opening game of the UAB series. The Tulane offense has come alive, as they have collected 126 hits in their last 12 games, averaging 10.5 a contest. In those 12 games, the Greenies are 7-5, thanks in part to the bats of junior Andrew Garner, senior Brennan Middleton, freshman Richard Carthon and senior Garrett Cannizaro, who have all hit at a clip of .310 or better. As a team, the Greenies have hit .308 in those contests, notching 37 doubles, five triples and four home runs to go along with 68 RBIs.

It also helps that senior Alex Byo has gone 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA on the mound in 23.1 innings. On top of Byo's success, the Green Wave pitching staff will get a shot in the arm as they welcome the return of staff ace Tony Rizzotti, who has missed the past two starts because of back stiffness.

The Greenies will kick things off against Southern Miss on Wednesday. Rizzotti will return to the mound to add to his resume of 5-4 record, 2.20 ERA and 56 strikeouts. The Arlington, Texas native pitched 7.0 innings of three-hit baseball against the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg, Miss., earlier this season. He struck out five and walked only two in the lone victory of the series for the Green Wave. Southern Miss boasts five hitters who have posted batting averages of .300 or better over the course of the season, including All-Conference USA members Isaac Rodriguez, Mason Robbins and Chase Fowler.

Byo will get the ball on Friday against the Pirates, who visited Greer Field at Turchin Stadium earlier this season. The Baton Rouge, La., native pitched 6.2 innings, but did not earn a decision in the extra-innings victory over ECU on April 13. However, Byo has come on strong as of late, as previously mentioned. He owns a 5-4 record on the season with a 2.86 ERA. He leads the team in innings pitched with 90.2, as he has notched two complete games this season - the only complete games of his collegiate career. ECU is l led at the plate by Drew Reynolds and his .313 batting average, but Tulane pitchers should also be leery of Chase McDonald, who owns 11 home runs on the season.

The Greenies will start either redshirt sophomore Randy LeBlanc or senior David Napoli on Saturday against Houston. Napoli faced Houston at home earlier this season, going 8.0 innings and allowing only three hits before Tulane ultimately dropped the contest. LeBlanc did not face the Cougars during the three-game series on the Uptown campus. However, LeBlanc has filled in admirably for the previously injured Rizzotti, starting the last two weekend closing games, going 10.2 innings, allowing 11 hits and giving up only five earned runs. He is 4-4 on the season with a 4.58 ERA. Napoli moved up a day in the rotation to offset the temporary loss of Rizzotti, striking out nine in a total of 8.1 innings, earning no decisions in each contest. On the season, Napoli leads the starting rotation with fewest hits allowed with 37. The New Orleans southpaw is 4-2 with a 2.64 ERA on the year. Houston's Justin Montemayor - the C-USA Freshman of the Year - leads the Cougars in hitting with a .321 average. Kyle Survance (.312), Michael Pyeatt (.308) and Frankie Ratcliff (.301) have also hit over .300 on the season.

Tulane freshmen Richard Carthon and Ian Gibaut - who were both named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team on Tuesday - will play a big role for the Green Wave this week. Carthon leads the team in stolen bases with 14, and Gibaut leads the squad in saves with 11.

Senior Brandon Boudreaux, who has batted exactly .300 during the last ten games with five doubles and two triples, will also be relied on heavily.

The Green Wave is 37-22 all-time in the Conference USA Championships, including winning the whole thing in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001 and sharing the title with TCU in 2005. This is the third time they have come into the tournament as the seventh seed, as they did so in both 2007 and 2011.

The Greenies are hoping that history repeats itself, as UAB entered the C-USA Championships as the seventh seed last season, and went on to win the tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals.

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