The class of 2006 joins a Tulane program that has established itself as one of the nation’s best over the past decade. During that time, the Green Wave has gone to nine NCAA Regionals, including a streak of eight in a row, won four Conference USA regular-season championships and four C-USA Tourney titles. In the past five years, Tulane has played in three Super Regionals and advanced to the College World Series in 2001 and 2005
LUBBOCK, Texas–Hahnville High product Aaron Loup and Texas natives Preston Claiborne, Hunter Johnson, Taylor Rogers and Drew Zizinia signed National Letters of Intent to play baseball for Tulane University beginning in 2007, Green Wave head coach Rick Jones and associate head coach/recruiting coordinator Mark Kingston announced Tuesday.
Loup (Hahnville, La.) is one of four pitchers to sign with the Green Wave, while Claiborne (Carrollton, Texas) represents one of the most highly touted two-way players in the nation. The pair earned All-State honors as juniors in 2005, Rogers (Round Rock, Texas) and Johnson (Bellaire, Texas) both earned all-district honors a year ago, and Johnson and Zizinia (Houston, Texas) were teammates on the 2000 Team Texas squad that won the U.S. Little League title and advanced to the Little League World Championship game.
“With the challenge we have faced this fall due to Hurricane Katrina, I couldn’t be more excited about this class,” Jones said. “I am very proud of the fact that these five young men and their families are excited about coming to Tulane and the great city of New Orleans.
“Pitching was our focus in recruiting this class as we will be a very young position player club in 2006. I believe that these five players will quickly provide our club with the quality depth necessary to maintain our position of national prominence.”
Claiborne, a 6-3, 210 infielder/right-handed pitcher from Newman Smith High School, signed with the Green Wave after earning Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association All-State honors as well as Dallas Morning News first-team all-area recognition in 2005. Equally adept both at the plate and on the mound, he hit .430 with six home runs and 25 RBI while posting a 9-1 record, 0.80 ERA, 103 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 72.1 innings of work.
The 2004 District 8-5A Newcomer of the Year, Claiborne is rated the No. 14 prospect in the state of Texas by Texas Baseball News and the No. 35 prospect among 2006 seniors by Baseball America.
“We had Preston rated as the top two-way player in this area of the country,” Kingston said. “He should continue our great tradition of two-way players that includes Michael Aubrey, Brian Bogusevic and Micah Owings.
“He is a very good defensive player with soft hands and an outstanding arm. He has a short, quick stroke that allows him to hit for power and average. He also pitches with velocity up to 92 miles per hour to go with a hard slider and excellent control. He is as well rounded a player as you can hope to find.”
Loup, a 6-1, 175-pound southpaw from Hahnville High, joins the Tulane program after becoming the lone underclassman to earn Louisiana Sports Writers Association first-team all-state honors in 2004. He went 9-0 with a 1.02 ERA for the Tigers, and also earned first-team All-District 6-5A recognition as a junior.
“Aaron is the top pitcher in the state of Louisiana for 2006,” Kingston said. “He combines a high 80s fastball, a good curveball and a tremendous change-up. He is the classic lefty that knows how to win. His feel for pitching is outstanding, and he comes from a great program coached by Frank Cazeaux. He loves to pitch big games, and he will do that a lot at Tulane.”
Rogers, a 6-5, 205-pound right-hander, posted 56 strikeouts in 61 innings of work last season for Round Rock McNeil High School en route to earning honorable-mention all-district recognition. He also saw time last season as a corner infielder and hit .338 with 10 doubles and 13 RBI.
“Taylor burst on the scene in the middle of the summer as a relative unknown,” Kingston said. “He has just started to concentrate the majority of his efforts on pitching and his progress has been rapid. His fastball has reached 92 miles per hour, along with the makings of a very good slider and change-up. He has the perfect pitcher’s body, and athletic mechanics. We feel like Taylor has unbelievable potential.”
Johnson and Zizinia are teammates at one of the most successful high school programs in Texas in Bellaire High. Johnson earned first-team all-district honors after fanning 65 in 44 innings of work, posting a 2.35 ERA and holding foes to a .210 batting average. Zizinia, a 6-2, 195-pound right-hander, posted 41 strikeouts in 31 innings last season, and limited opponents to a .205 batting average.
“Drew is another hard-throwing Texan with great potential,” Kingston said. “He has a plus breaking ball, with a fastball up to 91 miles per hour. He is just starting to tap his ability, and we feel like Drew can be a big-time college pitcher. He plays for Rocky Manual at Bellaire High in Houston, so you know he is well schooled and knows what it takes to win.
“Hunter is a proven winner. He commands three good pitches, and throws nothing but strikes. He pitches in the mid 80s, reaching 87, and shows a great ability to keep hitters off balance. Rarely does a hitter get a good swing off him. He is a polished lefty that should contribute immediately.”
The five-member class of 2006 joins a Tulane program that has established itself as one of the nation’s best over the past decade. During that time, the Green Wave has gone to nine NCAA Regionals, including a streak of eight in a row, won four Conference USA regular-season championships and four C-USA Tourney titles. In the past five years, Tulane has played in three Super Regionals and advanced to the College World Series in 2001 and 2005.