Tulane tries to pick up pieces with C-USA series against Rice

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELDTulane coach Rick Jones argues a call at third base in which umpires ruled a base runner out against LSU in the first inning of Tuesday's game at Turchin Stadium. The Green Wave, which suffered a 14-1 loss Tuesday, heads to Houston for a three-game Conference USA series against Rice.
Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELDTulane coach Rick Jones argues a call at third base in which umpires ruled a base runner out against LSU in the first inning of Tuesday's game at Turchin Stadium. The Green Wave, which suffered a 14-1 loss Tuesday, heads to Houston for a three-game Conference USA series against Rice.

Greenies try to pick up pieces with C-USA series against Rice

Last weekend, in their first Conference USA baseball series of the season, the Tulane Green Wave won two of three games against Memphis.

Of course, the middle game was a disaster — a 16-0 defeat in eight innings.

Then came Tuesday’s 14-1 loss to LSU.

So where, then, does the Green Wave stand? As Rick Jones’ team re-enters C-USA play with three games against Rice, is it looking up, way down, or somewhere in between?

This much is certain: The pitching staff is down — if not down on talent, then certainly down in numbers.

That was part of why Tulane used six pitchers during Tuesday’s wipeout loss.

“(Tuesday) was a real tough night to take away anything positive, but the reason why we had to go with so many pitchers in short stints is because we have five guys down,” Jones said. “We’ve got a big-time weekend series at Rice, and we play Thursday-Friday-Saturday, so that’s less time for those guys to rest. ... We wanted to win that ballgame, but we just couldn’t invest as much into it as we wanted to.”

Wednesday, the Green Wave (14-13, 2-1) its bags and traveled to Houston for a series at Reckling Park.

Tulane and Rice (18-9, 2-1) are starting their series a day early so they can recognize Easter Sunday.

The Owls got off to a slow start, but have gone 12-3 since then. They took two of three games against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Miss., before losing Tuesday to Sam Houston State.

Thursday’s game will feature two of the nation’s top pitchers, as Tulane sophomore Tony Rizzotti squares off against Rice ace Austin Kubitza.

In 45 innings, Rizzotti has notched 33 strikeouts to only seven walks. Last weekend, the right-hander pitched seven solid innings in a 6-4 win over Memphis. Kubitza, the preseason Conference USA Pitcher of the Year, is fourth in the nation with 56 strikeouts in only 38.1 innings.

Kubitza struggled last weekend against the Golden Eagles, allowing eight runs in 5.1 innings in a 10-1 loss.

Friday, Tulane will send senior right-hander Alex Byo. He, too, had a rough outing last week in a 16-0 loss to Memphis, but still holds a 2.25 ERA with 26 strikeouts and only seven walks. The Owls will counter with right-hander Jordan Stephens (3-2).

Senior left-hander David Napoli will close the series Saturday for Tulane. Napoli pitched well against Memphis last Sunday, striking out four in five innings of a 3-2 win. Rice’s Saturday starter is right-hander John Simms (4-1), who has 46 strikeouts and 16 walks.

Tulane is hitting .247 as a team and has struggled to score lately.

Senior Brennan Middleton has continued to lead the team at the plate, hitting .339. Sean Potkay’s average is second on the team at .284.

The Owls are batting .273 as a team. They have two individual hitters in Geoff Perrott (.333) and Michael Aquino (.330) who are batting over .300. Aquino has added five home runs and 18 RBIs, as well.

Rice leads the all-time series against Tulane 25-7, and the Owls are led by legendary coach Wayne Graham, now is in his 22nd season.