Paul Mainieri has always tried to start the season off with a quality opponent.
Paul Mainieri and the Tigers hope to return to Omaha and it all starts tonight
And this year is no different as Maryland heads to Baton Rouge for a weekend series with No. 3-ranked LSU that gets started at 7 p.m. tonight.
Maryland is coming off their second best season in school history (32-24). The Terrapins started the season off last year at UCLA and won two of three against an opponent that made it to the College World Series that same year.
For that reason, amongst others, Mainieri doesn’t expect that the Terps will be intimidated when they take the field at Alex Box.
“They are a real up and coming program. They are an SEC-caliber team” says Mainieri. “Right out the gate (LSU) is being tested.”
New head coach, John Szecf, leads Maryland in his first season, and he is quite familiar with Louisiana baseball.
Szecf was the head assistant and hitting coach at ULL from 2003-08 before moving on to stints at the University of Kansas and Kansas State. He had great success with the Ragin’ Cajuns as he raised the team batting average 60 points in his first three seasons in Lafayette.
Szecf and Maryland return six of eight positional players that tied with Clemson for 1st in the ACC in fielding percentage.
Among those six returning players are the team’s three leading hitters, led by catcher Jack Cleary, who led the team last year with a .319 average. Outfielder Jordan Hagel (.317) and third baseman K.J. Hockaday (.308) were 2nd and 3rd on the team in batting average, respectively.
The Terps also bring back their best pitcher from last season, Jimmy Reed. The lefty posted a 2.70 ERA, which was good for 9th in the ACC.
The Tigers have some new faces starting for them this weekend in freshman Alex Bregman at shortstop, junior third baseman Christian Ibarra, and freshman Mark Laird in right field.
Bregman was a very highly touted prospect out of Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico.
In his junior season he hit an astounding .678 and set a New Mexico state record with 19 home runs. His senior year he battled injuries and saw his draft stock fall, but he has rebounded and will bat third in the lineup for the Tigers.
Ibarra is a junior college transfer from Rio Hondo College in California. He is regarded as a great fielder and played at shortstop for his Rio Hondo team.
Not only can he field multiple positions, but Ibarra swung the bat pretty well also as he batted .396 for his JUCO team last season.
“For a little guy he packs a wallop,” says Mainieri.
Laird has been somewhat of a surprise this offseason.
Laird brings a much-needed left-handed bat into the lineup. He also has great speed and will be batting in the second spot for the Tigers tonight.
Mainieri says he actually thought about having the Monroe native lead off but decided to go with Chris Sciambra in that spot.
The Tigers have some new faces in the lineup, but Mainieri feels good about where his squad is heading into the season opener.
“I’ve been at this for 31 years. I don’t ever recall having a team this prepared as we are for this season,” said the skipper.
In preparing the freshmen for the crowd at Alex Box, Mainieri says they have shown the new guys videos of what the crowd will be like Friday night.
The skipper also says that he tries to put a lot of pressure on the players in practice, so they are ready to succeed when the season begins.
That will come tonight as the Tigers try and make it back to their old stomping grounds – Omaha.
Maryland Terrapins (0-0) at #3 LSU Fighting Tigers (0-0)
Friday, February 15 - 7 p.m.; Saturday, February 16 - 1 p.m.; Sunday, February 17 - 12 p.m.
Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. (10,236)
LSU - No. 3 by USA Today; No. 4 by Collegiate Baseball; No. 10 by Baseball America
UM - unranked
LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates
The Baton Rouge affiliate on Friday and Sunday is WDGL 98.1 FM; Baton Rouge affiliate on Saturday is WTGE 100.7 FM
Pregame show starts 30 minutes prior to first pitch
Listen and watch live at www.LSUsports.net/live.
www.LSUsports.net - live video, audio and stats on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
To join the Geaux Zone, visit www.LSUsports.net/join.
Audio and live streams available in all official apps with Geaux Zone subscription (www.LSUsports.net/apps.); live video available in the iPad app only.
Friday - none
Saturday - Cox Sports Television
Sunday - none
First 2,500 fans receive a free 2013 LSU Baseball schedule poster
First 2,500 fans receive a free 2013 LSU Baseball schedule magnet
All children ages 12 and under can run the bases of Alex Box Stadium after the game
This weekend marks the first meeting in baseball between LSU and Maryland.
LSU - So. RHP Aaron Nola (7-4, 3.61 ERA, 89.2 IP, 7 BB, 89 SO in 2012)
UM - Sr. LHP Jimmy Reed (1-3, 2.70 ERA, 60.0 IP, 16 BB, 52 SO in 2012)
LSU - Jr. RHP Ryan Eades (5-3, 3.83 ERA, 94.0 IP, 28 BB, 63 SO in 2012)
UM - Jr. RHP Brady Kirkpatrick (3-4, 3.04 ERA, 50.1 IP, 32 BB, 31 SO in 2012)
LSU - Sr. LHP Chris Cotton (7-0, 1.59 ERA, 45.1 IP, 7 BB, 40 SO in 2012) or Sr. LHP Brent Bonvillain (4-0, 3.49 ERA, 28.1 IP, 12 BB, 26 SO in 2012)
UM - Fr. RHP Kevin Mooney or Fr. LHP Alex Robinson