Tulane shortstop Sal Gozzo admits it's strange being separated from his twin brother for the first time in his life.
Still, he never considered leaving after the team’s rough 27-31 debut season under a coach, Travis Jewett, who did not recruit him.
Paul Gozzo, a catcher who started 40 games as a freshman and hit .244, transferred to Connecticut in his home state and will sit out a year before becoming eligible.
Sal Gozzo, who started 41 times and hit .211, elected to stay.
“I was committed here,” he said. “I had a decent freshman year and I’m going to build off of that. There was really no reason for me to leave. Academically, this school is great. The baseball's great."
Although his numbers were mediocre, Gozzo proved enough offensively and defensively for Jewett to expect a significant jump as a sophomore. He played up to those expectations in Tulane’s fall ball, which ended this past weekend at Turchin Stadium with the final games of the Angry Wave World Series.
“He's going to be a rock star,” Jewett said. “His drive is really evident. The work that he's putting in is at an elite level. He's out here all the time. I come out here to talk on the phone or get out of the office and I seem to see him out there. He knows what he wants and he's understanding what it's going to take to get there.”
Gozzo committed only nine errors as a freshman, proving steady in the field even though he lacked the flash or range of predecessor Stephen Alemais, a third-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Getting better at the plate has been his primary objective since the season ended. He played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League during the summer and hit .270 in 19 games.
“Definitely the pitching in college was different compared to high school,” he said. “These pitchers can locate a lot better and some of them have two pitches plus, but that experience is going to help me this year.”
He won’t get to lean on his brother as in the past. Paul Gozzo, who became the starting catcher by default after an early-season collision at the plate sidelined senior Jeremy Montalbano, faced an uphill battle to hold on to his status. He allowed 14 passed balls and threw out only 13 of 63 base-stealers while recovering from shoulder surgery.
“Academically he did very well, but baseball-wise it wasn’t a good fit and he wanted to see other options,” Sal Gozzo said. “UConn is a real good place. He likes it. This is the longest we’ve been apart, but we try to keep in touch.”
Ross Massey of Baton Rouge Catholic followed a brilliant freshman season with a brutal sophomore year, going from 10-3 and a 2.29 ERA to 0-8 and a 9.68 ERA.
Massey appears to have worked out the mysterious control issues that torpedoed his season, when he walked 38 batters in 35⅓ innings after walking 18 in 90⅓ as a freshman.
In Friday’s Game 5 of the Angry Wave World Series, he allowed one unearned run through five innings, with three consecutive errors preventing him from leaving with a clean slate. He struck out junior Grant Witherspoon, Tulane’s most experienced, accomplished hitter, in the fifth and kept hitters off balance from start to finish.
“He transitioned pretty good in the summer, and then certainly this fall I can see it go in his favor,” Jewett said. “Nothing makes me happier. He’s an awesome person, and it’s all coming around for him. He started the first game of the (Angry Wave) World Series and he’s throwing his pitchers over the plate. I see it being a thing of the past.”
Tulane lost players who accounted for 64 of its 70 home runs last season, but senior holdover Matt Rowland picked up some of the slack in fall ball. He hit home runs in games 3 and 5 of the World Series, with his second one a rocket that went about 20 above the wall next to the scoreboard in left field. … Without naming names, Jewett said his weekend pitching rotation would have a heavy junior college influence if fall performances carried over to the spring. … New hitting coach Eddie Smith began working with the team at the beginning of November. He replaced Billy Jones, who stepped down for unspecified health reasons in the offseason.