May 14, 2014
HOUSTON - Louisiana Tech will battle its final Conference USA opponent of the season this week, as the Bulldogs travel to Houston to take on the No. 14-ranked Rice Owls in a three-game set beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at Reckling Park in what will be the final series of the 2014 campaign.
LA Tech (15-32, 5-22 C-USA) heads into the series ranked 13th in the league standings, while Rice is leading the pack with a slight edge over UAB for the regular season title. Last weekend, the Bulldogs were swept by Charlotte in Tech's final home series of the year. Rice comes into the series with a 34-17 overall record, including a 20-7 mark in C-USA play.
The series begins with a 6:30 p.m. first pitch on Thursday, while Friday's game will also start at 6:30 p.m. at Reckling Park in Houston, Texas. Saturday's series finale is scheduled for 1 p.m. as the Bulldogs will wrap up the 2014 season versus the Rice Owls.
A LOOK AT THE OWLS
Currently sitting in first place in the Conference USA standings, Rice enters the weekend ranked 14th in the nation. The Owls are coming off a series victory on the road against UTSA after dropping the series opener to the Roadrunners, before winning the final two contests to come out on top. Rice has won seven of the nine Conference USA series they have played this season, including four straight series victories coming into this weekend.
The Owls boast a 17-7 overall record when playing at their home venue of Reckling Park. Included in Rice's home record is a 9-3 mark in league home games. Rice is currently ranked second in the C-USA statistics in both hitting and pitching with a .287 team batting average and a 2.57 earned run average as a whole.
At the plate
With three games left to play, sophomore shortstop Taylor Love continues to be the Bulldogs' leading hitter with a .319 batting average this season. Love leads the team in hits (53), doubles (12), runs (24) and slugging percentage (.428), while Tyler Ervine (.277 BA) leads the team with 25 runs batted in and five home runs on the season. As a team, LA Tech is hitting .252 in 2014 with 62 doubles, three triples and 19 home runs.
On the mound
Louisiana Tech will send junior right-hander Austin Greer out to the mound for his sixth straight series-opening start and his 10th overall. Greer (1-1, 3.94 ERA) is fifth on the Bulldogs' pitching staff in ERA and has struck out 28 batters in 32 innings. Freshman Braden Bristo (1-1, 3.30 ERA) will get his fifth start of the season on Friday, while Richie Navari has moved into Saturday's starting role with a 5-6 record on the season and a team-leading 2.16 ERA. Navari has started 12 contests and thrown three complete games in 2014.
Rice's staff enters the series with a team earned run average of 2.57 in 51 games thus far. The Owls will start right-hander Kevin McCanna (5-3, 3.09 ERA) in Thursday's opener, while left-hander Blake Fox (10-0, 1.52 ERA) will start on Friday night. Right-hander Jon Duplantier (2-2, 2.05 ERA) will start in the series finale on Saturday for Rice.
WITH THE CALL
Dave Nitz will call all the action from Houston for all three games, as Thursday and Friday's games can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network on KXKZ 107.5 FM with Saturday's finale set to air on KNBB 97.7 FM. The series can also be heard by subscribers on LA Tech All-Access. Live stats will be available via GameTracker by accessing the link on the baseball schedule page on LATechSports.com.
For complete coverage of Bulldog Baseball, please follow @LATechBSB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.