College Preview

2006 Conference USA Preview




HOW THEY'LL FINISH



Conference Overall


W
L
W
L
1. Rice (7)
--
--
45
19
2. Tulane (12)
24
6
56
12
3. Southern Mississippi
20
10
41
21
4. Houston
16
13
29
30
5. Central Florida
--
--
42
18
6. East Carolina
18
12
35
26
7. Alabama-Birmingham
14
16
31
27
8. Memphis
5
25
13
42
9. Marshall
--
--
16
34
(2005 records listed; 2006 national ranking in parentheses)
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface

Projected NCAA Teams (4): Houston, Rice, Southern Mississippi, Tulane.
Conference Schedule: 24 games. Schedule begins March 24.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 24-28 at Houston (Rice).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
* 2005 conference leader

C—Danny Lehman, Jr., Rice (.283-7-33). 1B—Mark Hamilton, Jr., Tulane (.318-11-46). 2B—Isa Garcia, Sr., Houston (.339-15-52 at Sam Houston State). 3B—Brad Emaus, So., Tulane (.321-13-56). SS—Josh Rodriguez, Jr., Rice (.345-11-54). OF—Tyler Henley, So., Rice (.301-6-36); Toddric Johnson, Jr., Southern Mississippi (.332-5-49 at Meridian, Miss., CC); Nathan Southard, Sr., Tulane (.341-12-53). DH—Marc Maddox, Sr., Southern Mississippi (.359-14-59). UT—Joe Savery, So., Rice (.382-5-43; 8-5, 2.43, 118 IP/129 SO). P—Eddie Degerman, Sr., Rice (8-1, 3.28, 99 IP/117 SO); Brad Lincoln, Jr., Houston (4-7, 4.76, 102 IP/106 SO); Sean Morgan, So., Tulane (6-1, 2.72, 5 SV, 36 IP/42 SO). RP—Daniel Latham, Jr., Tulane (2-0, 3.22, *13 SV).

Player/Pitcher of the Year: Joe Savery, 1b/lhp, Rice.
Freshman of the Year: Aja Barto, of, Tulane (14th round/Phillies ’05).

Top Newcomers: 1. Aja Barto, of, Tulane. 2. David DiNatale, of, Central Florida (Fr., 22nd round/Pirates ‘05). 3. Michael Murray, ss, Memphis (Jr., .519-8-61 at Meridian, Miss., CC). 4. Isa Garcia, ss, Houston. 5. Luis Flores, c, Houston (Fr., HS—Corpus Christi, Texas).

PROJECTED TOP PROSPECTS, 2006-07 Drafts

1. #Joe Savery, 1b/lhp, Rice.
2. Brad Lincoln, rhp, Houston.
3. Josh Rodriguez, ss, Rice.
4. Mark Hamilton, 1b, Tulane.
5. #Sean Morgan, rhp/dh, Tulane.
6. #Aaron Brown, rhp, Houston.
7. #Brad Emaus, 3b, Tulane.
8. Tim Bascom, rhp, Central Florida.
9. #Cole St. Clair, lhp, Rice.
10. #Warren McFadden, of, Tulane.

# Not eligible for 2006 draft

BEST TOOLS

Best Pure Hitter—Joe Savery, Rice. Best Raw Power—Mark Hamilton, Tulane. Best Strike-Zone Discipline—Brad Emaus, Tulane. Best Athlete—Joe Savery, Rice. Fastest Runner—Tyler Henley, Rice. Best Baserunner—Nathan Southard, Tulane. Best Defensive Catcher—Danny Lehman, Rice. Catcher/Best Arm—Danny Lehman, Rice. Best Defensive First Baseman—Marc Maddox, Southern Mississippi. Best Defensive Second Baseman—Dale Mollenhauer, East Carolina. Best Defensive Third Baseman—Brad Emaus, Tulane. Best Defensive Shortstop—Josh Rodriguez, Rice. Infielder/Best Arm—Josh Rodriguez, Rice. Best Defensive Outfielder—Nathan Southard, Tulane. Outfielder/Best Arm—Tyler Henley, Rice. Best Fastball—Brad Lincoln, Houston. Best Breaking Ball—J.R. Crowel, Tulane. Best Control—Billy Mohl, Tulane.

SHORT HOPS

• No Division I conference experienced more of a shakeup in its membership from this season to last than Conference USA, which lost Charlotte and St. Louis to the Atlantic-10 Conference; Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida to the Big East Conference and Texas Christian to the Mountain West Conference. Conference USA inherited three schools with baseball programs: Central Florida (from the Atlantic Sun), Marshall (Mid-American) and Rice (Western Athletic).

• In its nine years in the WAC, Rice finished first or tied for first every year, while winning conference games at a .778 clip. The Owls will be favored in their first year in Conference USA as well, as they return two-way star Joe Savery, who led the WAC with a .382 batting average as a first baseman and 129 strikeouts as a lefthanded pitcher. He’s already been projected as an early first-round pick in 2007, as a pitcher.

• Savery is one of a number of two-way stars in the conference. RHP Brad Lincoln (4-7, 4.76), a projected first-round pick as a pitcher, will also serve as Houston’s regular DH (.337-7-52). Tulane RHP Sean Morgan (6-1, 2.72), also a projected high-round pick as a pitcher in 2007, will take a regular turn in the Green Wave rotation while serving as Tulane’s DH. He hit .158-0-2 in limited duty as a hitter last year.

Luis Flores, who earned more acclaim on the mound than behind the plate in a spectacular high school career at Moody High in Corpus Christi, will step in as Houston’s regular catcher as a freshman. Flores went 14-0, 0.00 with 160 strikeouts in 91 innings as a junior at Moody, earning Texas 5-A player of the year honors while leading the school to the Texas 5-A title.

• Rice will play three games against defending national champion Texas: one at home, one at Texas’ Disch-Falk Field and one at the Minute Maid College Classic at Houston’s Minute Maid Park from Feb. 10-12. That will be one of four in-season tournaments that Rice will play in this year. The Owls will play host to the Coca-Cola Classic from Feb. 17-21 and the Crowne Plaza/Rice Invitational from Feb. 24-28. They’ll also play in the Corpus Christi College Classic from March 10-12. And Rice’s Reckling Park is the site of the conference tournament from May 24-28.

• After finishing in first place in the Atlantic Sun or winning the conference tournament in seven of the last 11 years, Central Florida will be hard pressed to do either this season. The rebuilding Golden Knights lost their top five hitters and will count on four freshman starters—1B Kiko Vasquez, OFs David DiNatale and Chadd Hartman, and DH Shane Ynclan--to pick up some of the slack. Junior righthander Tim Bascom (10-2, 3.10) returns after leading the team in wins last year, as does redshirt sophomore Taylor Meier, who missed last season with an injury after going 6-3, 2.55 in 2004.

• East Carolina, which won a school-record 51 games under Randy Mazey in 2004 and earned an NCAA tournament bid after slipping to 35 wins a year ago, opens 2006 with a very different look. Billy Godwin, who went 262-85 in six years at Louisburg (N.C.) Junior College, steps in as Pirates head coach after Mazey was suspended on Oct. 10 and then resigned from his position less than two months later. The draft, graduation and transfers have also transformed the on-field product, including the loss of promising sophomore 3B Ryan Peisel (.306-4-31), who left for Georgia.

• Memphis, which went 13-42 in Daren Schoenrock’s first year as coach, should be much improved after adding 22 newcomers. That figure includes four-year transfers 3B Kyle Norrid, a junior from Tennessee, and senior RHP Marcus Davis from Virginia Commonwealth. The Tigers also recruited national junior college player of the year Mike Murray, who hit .519-8-61 at Meridian (Miss.) CC, to play shortstop. Senior RHP Stephen Gostkowski isn't a new face, but has played for another team. He's the placekicker for the Tigers football team and was an all-conference performer in 2004.