Owls-Green Wave: Pre-series Notes

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NEW ORLEANS - The OG is not one for clich├ęs, so when he uses one heed is taken. He described his present dealings with his pitching staff as 'circling the wagons' and proclaimed that experimentation, at least during the weekend, is over. Pitchers that have displayed control problems won't work during conference action barring extenuating circumstances. Given the Owls' mediocre RPI (47 according to Boyd Nation), they can not afford to fritter away games via shaky pitching. Take a look at the stats and deduce who will see the mound this weekend.

That edict explains in part why The OG will play his starting rotation by ear for a second consecutive weekend. One gets the sense that he'd love to name Jr. LHP Abel Gonzales as the Sunday starter, but with Sr. RHP Mike Ojala limited by a strict pitch count, Gonzales might be needed on Saturday should his penchant for stellar long relief save Rice in a pinch. The Owls have yet to establish a dominant righthander, which leaves the weekend rotation in flux.

By and large, The OG believes that most of the Owls' problems regarding their offense and defense are resolved. Injuries to Sr. C Diego Seastrunk (heel), So. LF Michael Fuda (elbow) and Fr. 2B Michael Ratterree (shoulder) have mucked up the proceedings, but the offense appears to be finding its stride. GDG will be a game-time decision behind the plate, but at the least he is available to DH. Fuda might remain limited but Ratterree seems intent to play through whatever discomfort he is dealing with. Not only has he displayed toughness and determination, he seems prideful of the fact that he and So. 3B Anthony Rendon are the only Owls to have started every game this season. Ratterree expresses an ideal attitude to thrive.

The lineup will be put to the test by the Green Wave. All three weekend starters (Jr. RHP Conrad Flynn, So. RHP Robby Broach, Jr. RHP Gunner Wright) sport ERAs at or below 3.40, and the bullpen is anchored by experienced veterans who have excelled previously: Jr. RHP Nick Pepitone, Sr. LHP Matt Petiton and Sr. RHP Preston Claiborne. Tulane statistically has the best staff in Conference USA, and for all the talk of how the Owls have scuffled against quality pitching, this weekend provides an opportunity to prove otherwise. The Owls have owned Tulane since the move to C-USA (12-0 against the Green Wave since the 2005 New Orleans Super Regional), and a series win would put the Owls back on track for a league title.

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Saw Tulane play St. Mary's during the first round of the basketball tournament. Flynn looked very impressive and the game was over in less than two hours (almost as long as it took to wait for the street car). Have you been to Turchin since the hurricane? The only dirt in the entire place is the pitcher's mound. I would be interested to hear the player's comments on not being able to dig in at the plate.

Geoffrey: This is my third time at Turchin since Katrina, so the faux brick and artificial surface at Aluminum City are nothing new to me. Considering the fact the Owls played at Disch-Falk just a few weeks back, the fake stuff here should be easy to adjust to. - MK

Abe Gonzalez threw one inning on Friday, and barring anything in the 9th inning, has not thrown on Saturday. It appears he will start on Sunday in an effort to win the season series.

As you say, the offense and defense appears to be finally rounding into the form we all expected at the beginning of the season.

The pitching is about what it was expected to be too.

Once again, the OG has somehow righted the ship for the second half of the season. After final exams, the team has thrived historically. If that happens again this year, do you think the Owls have a shot at both winning the conference and hosting a Regional?

TFW: Winning conference, yes. Hosting a regional? No. - MK

Why not host a Regional? The Owls are on a roll, and if they can keep it up they will enter the post-season on a roll. The committee takes into account both momentum and hosting ability/experience, right? The RPI is not great, but it will be better if the roll continues.

Are you basing your response primarily on the Owls' lack of consistency this season, or is there some other factor you are taking into account?

TFW: Although the Owls have won 7 of 10, I'm not ready to proclaim they are on a roll. Their RPI remains in the 40s and, given the overall struggles of C-USA, the Owls will need a serious hot streak to work their way back into hosting contention. At this point, it might take a regular-season and tournament title to host. - MK

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