OMAHA, Neb.–All the pageantry, hysteria and hoopla surrounding the Green Wave’s berth to the 2005 College World Series officially ended on Thursday night following the opening ceremony at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Now, it’s time to get down to business as the top-ranked Tulane University baseball team is set to square off against Pac-10 champion Oregon State Saturday afternoon in game one of bracket two with first pitch slated for 1 p.m.
“This is my 30th year of coaching at various levels, and getting to Omaha is the goal,” Tulane head coach Rick Jones said Thursday during the College World Series press conference. “When you top that hill and the kids see the stadium for the first time, it’s special. The kids are elated to be here.”
“We have more veteran players than young guys so I’m not concerned about (them getting caught up in the moment). Once you start, it’s having a hot hand on the bump and playing the game that has a lot more to do with it than experience.”
The Green Wave will put their hopes of advancing in the winners’ bracket in the hot right hand of junior Micah Owings, who will be matched up with Beavers’ sophomore righty Johan Nickerson in Saturday’s showdown. Owings leads Tulane with 131 strikeouts, a .232 opponent batting average, a 9.61 strikeout-per-nine average and a 6.24 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with a 3.38 ERA.
Nickerson, meanwhile, enters Saturday’s contest 9-1 on the year and a 2.10 ERA to go along with 109 strikeouts, 28 walks and a .207 opponent batting average in 103.0 innings of work.
Tulane enters the 2005 College World Series 55-10 on the year. As a team, the Green Wave are hitting .321 with a .510 slugging percentage courtesy of 161 doubles, eight triples and 82 home runs. Senior shortstop Tommy Manzella leads the team with a .356 batting average, and junior centerfielder Nathan Southard is next with a .355 clip. Owings, who will likely hit for himself on Saturday, paces Tulane with 18 home runs and 63 RBI, while Manzella paces the club with 21 stolen bases.
From the mound, the Green Wave have a 3.84 ERA and have held opponents to a .254 batting average. As a staff, Tulane hurlers have combined for 559 strikeouts and just 174 walks in 576.1 innings. Junior southpaw Brian Bogusevic leads the team with a 3.14 ERA and 123.1 innings pitched, while Owings paces the club with 131 strikeouts. Sean Morgan and Daniel Latham have been the team’s best bullpen arms as Morgan has six wins and five saves, while Latham has 12 saves and a pair of wins in 29 appearances.
Oregon State comes into Saturday’s CWS-opening ballgame 46-10 on the year. The Beavers are hitting .320 as a team with a .446 slugging percentage on the strength of 106 doubles, 11 triples and 39 home runs. All-American outfielder Jacoby Ellsberry paces the squad with a .413 batting average, followed by Andy Jenkins and Mitch Canham with marks of .395 and .342, respectively. Canham paces the club with eight home runs while Jenkins leads the way with 55 RBI.
As a staff, Oregon State has a 3.08 ERA and has held opponents to a .223 batting average. OSU hurlers have combined for 451 strikeouts and 186 walks in 499.0 frames. Nickerson paces the Beavers in ERA while Dallas Buck leads the club with 12 wins, 116 strikeouts and a .189 opponent batting average in 123.1 innings or work. Kevin Gunderson has appeared in a team-best 32 games and has 14 of the Beaver’ 21 saves in 2005.
Saturday’s matchup marks just the third time the two teams will meet on the diamond, and Tulane holds a 2-0 mark in the all-time series. The Green Wave defeated Oregon State 11-9 on March 24, 1986 at the Riverside (Calif.) Baseball Invitational and claimed a 6-5 win over the Beavers on March 9, 1991 at the Louisiana Classic in Lafayette, La.
The contest between Tulane and Oregon State will be televised live on ESPN and will be broadcast on the radio on both WRBH 88.3 FM and WTIX AM 690. In addition, live stats are available on the internet at www.tulanegreenwave.com and www.ncaasports.com.