#36 Tulane Baseball 2016 Preview

Tulane Green Wave
Overall Rank: #36
Conference Rank: #2 American
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Coach David Pierce wasted no time turning around the Tulane program. In his first season at the helm, Coach Pierce led the Green Wave to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008. Tulane went 1-2 in the Baton Rogue Regional, beating Lehigh handily and losing to UNC Wilmington twice. But that was just the first step in getting this program back to where they were a decade ago. Between 1998 and 2006, Tulane never missed an NCAA Tournament. It is too early to tell if Coach Pierce can get this group back to a similar run, but the expectations are definitely heading in that direction.
2015: 35-25, 13-11
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: David Pierce
Field Players:
Tulane returns one of the best shortstops in the nation in Stephen Alemais. The junior batted .312 in 2015 and stole 27 bases. Tulane has built their offense around Alemais. They will play small ball and having a player like Alemais, who can get on base and advance himself with his speed, is huge. Outfielders Lex Kaplan and Richard Carthon have some speed too and are regulars in the starting lineup. Kaplan also has some power and led the team with seven homeruns last season. Hunter Hope and Hunter Williams can drive in runs too. This is not the most potent offense in the American Athletic Conference by any means, but with so much returning, expect even more clutch hitting from the Green Wave in 2016.
Tulane had four pitchers who threw at least 70 innings last year and all four are back. Corey Merrill leads the way after going 5-6 last year and compiling a 2.12 ERA. Merrill does a great job of keeping the ball low and that is a big reason why the Green Wave turned 61 double plays last season, the ninth most in the nation. Merrill allowed just one home run all of last season in 102.0 innings. Patrick Duester allowed just two in 70.0 innings. He is 6-6 with some intimidating speed and a surprising amount of control. Emerson Gibbs and Alex Massey also started at least 11 games last season and Coach Pierce has four very experienced and very good starters in his rotation.
Who to Watch:
Only a handful of teams had more shutouts last year than Tulane. One common theme in a majority of those shutouts was that Ian Gibaut finished them off. The closer is gone now and Tulane needs to find somebody to fill his shoes. Duester is an option, especially if Tulane finds a newcomer they want to give midweek starts to during the 2016 campaign. Getting Duester in more games and in more important situations is certainly not a terrible idea. Eric Steel is an option as well after tallying two saves and pitching 21.2 total innings in relief in his first season with Tulane after playing at St. John’s River State.
Final Projection:
Tulane returns just about everything they need to compete for an AAC title and perhaps a run to the Super Regionals, which would be their first trip since 2005 when they also made the College World Series. The coaching staff has brought in some new players with experience too and that will help tremendously. The transfers may not make a huge impact, but this time around Tulane has a little more depth to work with and that is something Coach Pierce did not have during his first season leading Tulane. However, Tulane is on everybody’s radar now and nobody will look past them. The Green Wave will challenge themselves a bit more in nonconference play too with series against Illinois and Texas. If they falter there, another 13-11 AAC mark would likely not be enough to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Stephen Alemais, IF, 250
Hits: Stephen Alemais, IF, 78
Home Runs: Hunter Williams, IF/DH, 4; Hunter Hope, IF, 4
RBIs: Hunter Williams, IF/DH, 28
Runs: Stephen Alemais, IF, 43
Stolen Bases: Stephen Alemais, IF, 27
Wins: Patrick Duester, P, 7
Innings Pitched: Corey Merrill, P, 102.0
Strikeouts: Corey Merrill, P, 81
Saves: Eric Steel, P, 2; Patrick Duester, P, 2