Wave heads to West Coast for first tournament of season

Redshirt junior catcher Jeremy Montalbano, senior pitcher Patrick Deuster and other members of the Tulane baseball team celebrate the three-run walk-off home run hit by Montalbano. Tulane defeated Illinois in the tenth inning (6-5) on Feb. 19 in Turchin Stadium.

Susan Fanelli, Staff Reporter

The Tulane baseball team is gearing up for its first tournament of the year after a 3-1 start to the season and a 7-0 win against Alabama A&M. The Green Wave travels to San Diego, California to participate in the first-ever Tony Gwynn Classic Friday through Sunday.

It will compete against eight other teams in two brackets that ends in a fight for first place.

“I think we’re just excited to be a part of this tournament,” senior pitcher Patrick Duester said. “It’s the first ever. There’s a lot of talent out there, so we are not just gonna go out there and play, but we’re looking to win.”

Among the competition this year is Nebraska, Kentucky and co-hosts San Diego State and University of San Diego. The inaugural tournament will feature seven NCAA regional teams.

Tulane, San Diego State and UC Santa Barbara all qualified in 2015, and Kentucky, Bryant, SDSU and Nebraska all qualified in 2014.

The Tony Gwynn Classic was founded by longtime USD radio broadcaster Jack Murray, who is also the chairman of the event. He is managing the tournament for the Tony and Alicia Gwynn foundation, which seeks to bring income and stability to families in neighborhoods with low-income housing.

“I think we want to prove to ourselves that we’re good enough to play with anyone,” said redshirt junior Jeremy Montalbano, who scored the winning walk off home run in the 6-5 victory against Illinois on Friday.

The tournament was created this year in honor of Tony Gwynn, a right-fielder who spent 20 years with the San Diego Padres and was a 2007 inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Gwynn was also a head coach for the San Diego State University Aztecs for 12 years after his retirement from professional baseball in 2004. After passing away from complications due to cancer in June 2014, the tournament was created in his honor, as well as the renaming of the official SDSU stadium.

“It’s a very special tournament,” Tulane head coach David Pierce said. “Tony Gwynn was such a great player, and he’s a special player that I watched grow up.”

Tulane will face University of Arizona in the first round of a three-day competition on Friday and will face the winner of the Nebraska vs. University of San Diego face off on Saturday at Fowler Park.

“Every time we go out there and play, we want to get better,” Duester said. “We’re just going to go out there and do what we do.”

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