Baseball Raises Stakes Against Powerful Pepperdine

Tulane to battle perennial baseball power Pepperdine in a battle of Waves this weekend.

Tulane again flexed its offensive muscle over the weekend scoring 29 runs in its 3 games versus George Mason last weekend. On Friday night Cory Hahn got his second win, holding off the Patriot hitters as the Greenies exploded for a 13-4 win.

Saturday's game would be a different story as the Patriots scored 6 unanswered runs to drop Tulane into the loss column for the first time all season long 6-3. Five of the six George Mason runs were scored with 2 outs.

Tulane bounced back Sunday to beat GMU 13-1 in a game shortened to 7 innings because of the Sunday mercy rule. Michael Aubrey, Brian Bogusevic, Jonny Kaplan and Wes Swackhamer all swung heavy bats for the Greenies, who stand at 5-1 after the completion of the series.

Tulane will need to keep the bats hot vs. Pepperdine. Pepperdine enters the weekend series with the Green Wave riding an emotional high after defeating local rival and seventh ranked Southern California 4-1 on Tuesday night.

Entering his seventh season as the Waves' head coach, Frank Sanchez welcomes back 17 letterwinners from last year's team that posted a 31-32 overall record, captured the conference's Coast Division with an 18-12 mark and advanced to the WCC Championship Series for the fourth straight season.

Pepperdine fell one win short of making its second straight NCAA Championships appearance and third in the last four years when it lost 5-3 to the University of San Diego in the decisive Game 3 of the WCC Championship Series.

Just reaching the WCC Championship Series was an impressive accomplishment for the Waves considering their roster had 17 newcomers, including 13 freshmen. They had the added pressure of coming into a program that had a school-record nine players taken in the Major League Baseball Draft and finished the previous season ranked in the national Top 20 after winning the WCC and concluding the year with a 42-18 record.

Despite the relatively subpar season in 2002, Pepperdine dominated Tulane in Malibu to open the season. Tulane was dealt 9-7 and 30-21 defeats before rebounding with a 12-8 win on Sunday to salvage the series. And in 2001, Pepperdine came into New Orleans and took 2 out of 3 from the College World Series bound Greenies.

Pepperdine's top players are Kevin Estrada, Ty Harper and Cory Brightwell. Estrada is expected to be the everyday shortstop and provide the Waves' with valuable leadership on and off the field. During his junior season at Florida in 2001, Estrada was an All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) selection after batting a career-high .351, leading the team with 88 hits, driving in 41 runs and stealing 35 bases while extending his consecutive-games played streak to 101.

Brightwell, who also received honorable mention All-WCC accolades, batted .326, led the team with 53 runs, tied for the team-lead in extra base hits with 31 (17 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs), had 44 RBI and a .564 slugging percentage. Harper is Pepperdine's top returning hitter from a year ago after finishing second on the team with a .336 average and leading the team with 84 hits.

The Wave's roster of returning pitchers includes seniors Derek Mills (5-3, 4.40), Greg Ramirez (5-4, 5.91) and James Carroll (2-5, 7.12), juniors Jacob Barrack (4-2, 3.26) and Brandon Boesch (6-5, 5.10), and sophomores Robert Hobbs (3-2, 6.19), Kea Kometani (0-2, 6.83), Steve Kleen (1-3, 7.23), David Smart (0-1, 9.39) and Peter Phillips (11.68). Carroll, a double transfer who previously played at Alabama before transferring to Pepperdine, actually started his college career at Tulane and was the starting pitcher in the Green Wave's loss to Auburn in the 1999 NCAA regional final

The series will begin Friday, first pitch 6:30 pm, and continue Saturday with a game time of 2 pm.

First pitch in Sunday's game time has been chanegd to 3:30 pm to accomodate those who wish to attend the Tulane women's basketball game against C-USA foe TCU, scheduled at 1 pm in Fogleman Arena. That game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN-2.

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