Baseball to take advantage of mature roster

Samantha Shafia, Associate Sports Editor

The paint has been sprayed and people with spring baseball fever are buying sunflower seeds from McAlister Market, which must mean that baseball season is fast approaching.

The gates of Turchin Stadium will open to the public for the first time this season on Friday. With that opening comes the predominantly upperclassman baseball roster and returning coaching staff. But this 2016 season will include freshmen and transfers on the roster more frequently to improve the comfort level of all players involved, not just the returners.

Tulane ended last season on a high note. Despite having a new coach and a primarily sophomore starting lineup, the Wave maintained a winning record of 35-25 with an American Athletic Conference record of 13-11 this past season and an added bonus of participating in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

This season, the AAC coaches’ poll predicted Tulane finishing second in the conference due to the profound number of quality returning starters and players as well as the return of the coaching staff for the second year in a row.

Starting on the mound, the Wave will return all four of its best starting pitchers from last year. Junior right-handed pitcher Corey Merrill will return with the lowest starting ERA on Tulane’s roster at a 2.12 which was also the third best ERA in the AAC this past season.

As for relievers and closers, this year’s group has returned some notable players. Due to this amount of talent and skill standing on both the mound and waiting in the bullpen, the coaching staff will never run out of options with whom to start or to put in as a reliever.

Catching for these pitchers is a solid group of human walls. The leader in this group is junior catcher Jake Rogers who has dominated both batters and runners from behind home plate with a .990 career fielding percentage.

His career high 56 runners caught attempting to steal a base is the second highest amount in a player’s career in Tulane baseball history.

The defense will return its same staple players to the lineup. The familiar faces, like junior infielder Hunter Hope and junior infielder Stephen Alemais, will throw the baseball around the diamond while the outfielders, like senior outfielder Richard Carthon, will put on their sunglasses to try to find the balls in the New Orleans sun.

Offensively, Tulane will return eight of its 10 top hitters from this past season whose batting averages ranged last season from the acceptable .227 to the impressive .312.

Even the comfort of the returning coaching staff ensures the stability and clarity of the baseball team as it progresses through the season.

“Just having [the coaches] around makes it easier for us,” junior shortstop Stephen Alemais said. “We know their philosophies as coaches. We know how they run things, so it’s easier for us to show the young guys that this is how things are run here.”

Returning players will continue to act as the backbone of the 2016 baseball team, but the experience and comfort with previous positions allows the returners to take a slight step back and afford the talented freshmen and transfers some experience and learn the ways of Tulane Baseball.

“When you look at our team, and you talk about the strengths, we are going to have a starting lineup that has so many different combinations just based on what we can do this year,” head coach David Pierce said.

But through the home runs and the missed calls, this team will continue to stick together from the the leadership of the players who have stuck with this program for so long.

“I think you will be very impressed with the maturation of this program,” Pierce said. “The players on the field are going to play with excitement, energy and they are going to play for each other.”

This 2016 baseball season will get rolling as the Wave faces off for a weekend-long series against Illinois at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Greer Field.

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