Bulldog Baseball Set For Opening Day Weekend
Feb. 15, 2012
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech opens the 2012 campaign this weekend, hosting future WAC member the University of Texas-Arlington for a three-game series. The Bulldogs will start the season Friday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park against the Mavericks before closing out the weekend against the UT-Arlington at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 and 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19.
Friday's bout with UT-Arlington will mark the 90th meeting between the two programs and Tech is 42-47 all-time vs. Texas-Arlington. The Bulldogs and the Mavericks last played on May 3, 2011 when Louisiana Tech defeated UTA 7-5 in Ruston.
Friday night, the first 250 fans will receive free hot dogs compliments of Super 1 Foods. Members of the Louisiana Tech Bulldog baseball team will be available after the series finale Sunday afternoon to autograph posters for fans.
The Bulldogs welcome back 14 letterwinners and four position starters from a 2011 squad that finished 34-27 while winning more WAC Tournament games than any other team in school history and advancing to the tournament's elimination bracket final game (2-2). With the two wins, Tech doubled its tournament win total, winning as many tournament games as the last nine years combined.
Head coach Wade Simoneaux, entering his 10th year at the helm, saw his 2011 team revert back to small ball and focus on pitching and defense and will continue to do so.
"With the new BBCOR bats, it took our offense a bit of time to get used to them," said Simoneaux. "We made some adjustments and really focused on our pitching and manufacturing runs by bunting, stealing bases, hit-and-runs and hitting gaps. Our guys worked hard on taking advantage of runners in scoring position. Going into this season, we have adjusted to the bats and we will have more power than last year."
The Bulldogs pitching staff, most of which return for the 2012 season, was one of the best in the conference and set single-season school records for innings pitched (517.2) and saves (18).
Jeb Stefan will anchor the rotation and gets the start on Friday after leading the WAC in fewest hits allowed by a starter (63) and leading Tech with seven wins and two complete games in 14 starts with one shut out in 2011. Jamie Gilley, a junior who redshirted last season but pitched extremely well in the Fall World Series, leading all pitchers with a 1.00 ERA in two starts gets the call on Saturday. He allowed one run on four hits in nine innings while striking out 13 in the fall and arguably has the best change-up on the staff.
"We've faced him for four months and have struggled to even put the ball in play against him. It's one of the best I've seen in my years here and I'm excited to see how he fares on Saturday," said Simoneaux.
Trevor Peterson led all Bulldog pitchers with 16 games started, pitching 83.1 innings and compiling a 6-4 record with a 5.08 ERA and closes out the series as the game three starter.
Closer Caleb Dudley returns after breaking Tech's single-season saves and appearances records in 2011, while becoming one of the best finishers in the country. He went 5-2 in 2011 with a 3.30 ERA, 12 saves and 44 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched. He made 32 appearances, including two spot starts for the Bulldogs. He goes into the 2012 season only four saves away from tying Buddy Aulds for the top spot in Tech's history (18).
Left handers Sam Alvis (3.79 ERA in 21 games) and Ben Carlisle return to the bullpen as the primary set-up men for Dudley while JUCO transfers James Ferguson and Nate Chambers and freshmen Phil Maton and Mitch Antony join the bullpen.
"Stefan, Gilley and Peterson will anchor the rotation and Chris Sadberry will probably be the fourth starter on this team," Simoneaux said. "We have Dudley, Carlisle and Alvis coming back to the bullpen and adding Ferguson, Chambers, Maton and Antony to it gives us a deep staff. We have four legitimate starters and eight guys in the bullpen that we are confident in."
Of the returning starters, shortstop Ryan Gebhardt was named second team all-WAC and Louisville Slugger freshman all-America in 2011 after leading the team with a .343 batting average. Gebhardt goes into opening day riding a 17-game hit streak and has reached base safely in 29 straight games.
Second baseman Austin Hedges hit .304 in 2011 with 48 hits, 25 runs and two stolen bases in 49 games (43 starts) and returns for his junior season. He, along with Gebhardt, was named to the College Sports Madness Preseason Second Team All-WAC.
Alex Williams will once again start at first base. Since his freshman season (2009), he has played in 166 of Tech's 169 games and started 162 of them. The senior led the Bulldogs with 53 RBI in 2011 with four home runs from the cleanup spot.
Justin Gordey will start at center field after hitting .301 with 41 hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases in 48 games in 2011.
Season tickets are still available for the 2012 Louisiana Tech baseball team. Come be a part of the excitement that is Bulldog baseball as the team looks to establish themselves as a perennial WAC contender and buy your season tickets today. All fans can purchase season tickets at the ticket booth during opening day weekend.
Live stats will be provided via Game Tracker on www.LATechSports.com, the official home page for Louisiana Tech Athletics.
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