Q: Does Tulane have what it takes to stop its NCAA postseason skid?
AThe Green Wave hasn’t been in the NCAA tournament since 2008, a fact that burns Jones. A No. 23-ranked recruiting clas should upgrade the talent, but it’ll be tough to mask the inexperience, with six newcomers starting on opening night.
Q: How does the Wave make up for losing its entire weekend staff from last season?
A It starts with freshmen arms like J.P. France and Corey Merrill, who have injected some new life into the rotation, but the Wave’s success will ultimately rely on the fragile health of Randy LeBlanc, Tyler Mapes, Kyle McKenzie and Alex Massey, who have struggled just to be available in their careers.
Q: Can this lineup generate any power in the batting order?
A: In an era where home runs are down across the board in college baseball, Tulane was particularly stricken last year, hitting just 10 all season. Outside of Hunter Hope and possibly Lex Kaplan, there isn’t much hope of testing the fences.
Q: Where can the Green Wave generate its offense?
A: Without the long ball at Tulane’s disposal, Jones upgraded the Wave’s speed adding Stephen Alemais, Lex Kaplan and Grant Brown to join Richard Carthon as base-stealing threats. Expect a significant increase in bunting and hit-and-runs as Tulane tries to boost its scoring opportunities.
Q: Is Rick Jones in jeopardy of losing his job?
A: After 21 seasons, 12 NCAA tournament appearances and two College World Series berths, Jones is easily the best coach in program history, but the five-year postseason drought has taken its toll on the fans and him. Another disappointing year will certainly heat his seat.
IN THE FIELD:
C Jake Rogers
Coaches and scouting services have raved about this freshman’s defense, from blocking wild throws to gunning down runners. He’s a key cog in Rick Jones’ renewed small-ball mentality.
1B Bowen Woodson, Tyler Wilson
Woodson spent his career as a defensively-focused second baseman, but the senior was shifted to help lend experience and a quick-twitch at a corner infield position. Wilson, a newcomer, possesses a bigger bat but has been inconsistent.
2B Garrett Deschamp
A transfer from LSU-Eunice, Deschamp was named to the JUCO World Series all-tournament team, capping a season in which he batted .332 with 21 extra-base hits and 56 RBIs.
SS Stephen Alemais
Alemais is the main attraction among all the freshmen. Rated among the 100 best newcomers by Baseball America, Alemais is smooth in the field, can hit for average and will have the green light to steal bases.
3B Hunter Hope
A freshman with a powerful arm to make throws across the diamond, Hope is also expected to provide power in the middle of a batting order with very little of it.
LF Richard Carthon
Carthon performed well at the top of the order last year, but needs to get better jumps off of pitchers in order to use his exceptional speed.
CF Lex Kaplan
The top rated high-schooler in Missouri by MaxPreps.com was a late but welcome addition. Kaplan’s brother, Jonny, was a mainstay in center during the Wave’s glory years, and Kaplan can anchor any of the three outfield spots.
RF Andrew Garner, Tim Yandel
Garner has been a steady offensive presence in two of his three seasons, with a career .280 average and has some extra-base power. Yandel disappointed as a freshman infielder, hitting .227, but will get another chance with less pressure.
IN THE ROTATION:
No. 1 J.P. France He’s the first Tulane freshman to start the season-opener since Ivan Zweig in 1991 and earned it by displaying excellent control of the strike zone in preseason scrimmages.
No. 2 Randy LeBlanc The senior has had an up-and-down career due to injuries and spotty control. However, he still has the bility to overwhelm hitters when things are going right and isn’t fazed by a bad outing or a bad break.
No. 3 Tyler Mapes After missing the last three months of last season after Tommy John surgery, Mapes came back with impeccable control in three scrimmages, despite a dip in velocity which Jones believes is temporary.
No. 4 Corey Merrill Another freshman who impressed the staff with his command in the strike zone, the Lutcher product is a tall right-hander who can consistently place his fastball, curveball and changeup on the edges.
IN THE BULLPEN:
OPPONENT: Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
WHEN: 1 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: Turchin Stadium.
RADIO: WRBH-FM, 88.3.