Pierce’s Players: Competition turns internal for baseball team

Samantha Shafia, Staff Reporter

With the competition for the starting nine in full force, Tulane baseball coaches are observing talent not only from rookies and transfers but also the returning players. 

Fall season is the best opportunity for transfers, non-starters and freshmen to show their skills to the coaches. The coaches are impressed with the talent they have observed this past week.

“We have some extremely good players that returned,” head coach David Pierce said. “We [also] have some interesting new kids that are going to fill in some blanks.” 

Three transfers have specifically caught the coaches’ eyes early on this season. Two junior transfers, outfielder Jerret Dehart and catcher Jeremy Montalbano, as well as redshirt-senior pitcher Evan Rutter have been making splashes in the Wave’s fall ball games.

“[These] are three older players that we have high expectations for,” Pierce said. 

But transfers are not the only players that are competing for spots this preseason. Out of the 2015 roster, there are 13 viable freshmen who are ready and willing to jump into any spot on the field. Of these freshmen, three of them can not only pitch but also play in the outfield and infield. 

“Across the board, our intersquad [games] up until this point have been really competitive,” senior starting pitcher Alex Massey said. “The new guys have stepped in and really [have] been playing well.” 

Even though these players are trying their best, the returners already have chemistry, working the ball around the diamond together. 

“Although we have numbers in seniors and some numbers in freshmen, our nucleus has been this junior class,” Pierce said. “Their experience now with their abilities and their skill level is interesting to coach.”

With all of the starting pitchers returning from last season, the coaches are able to help them either refine their three basic pitches or learn new pitches to keep the batters off balance. 

“Last year, coaches introduced me to a slider,” Massey said. “And I’m just trying to perfect that pitch and throw strikes and chase pitches, when I want to.”

Working on pitches while competing in intersquad competitions can be difficult, but the coaches have confidence in their pitchers’ abilities and want to use this off-season time to develop their skills for this upcoming season.

“They’re not pitching for innings right now,” Pierce said. “So, [their] experience gives them the opportunity to somewhat expand what they may want to do for next spring.”

While the pitchers focus on improving their skill, the infield continues to focus on fielding hits and getting outs by practicing routine infield and outfield plays.

“We’re just taking a lot of repetition at the moment,” junior shortstop Stephen Alemais said. “[We’re] trying to get back into the swing of things.”

The coaching staff aims to increase runs scored from last season, leading to a focus on having quality at bats and approaching the plate with confidence. 

“We have to minimize our strikeouts,” Pierce said.

As they work hard to better their skills, the players all have one goal in common: reaching the postseason.

“We want to host a regional tournament this year,” Alemais said. “[As a team] we are building that chemistry now with the new guys and working hard together and getting prepared for next year.”

The boys might be aiming for that regional goal, but the coaches are sticking to a much more basic goal which consists of playing their best during every game.

“We play the games in the early part of the year as if they’re just as important as a conference series,” Pierce said. “If you’re really competing and focusing on your job, you’re going to win more than you lose.”