Weekend Preview: VA Tech, Toledo, TX So.

LSU will look to continue its undefeated start to the season with a three-team, round-robin weekend. The Tigers will play host to Virginia Tech, Toledo and Texas Southern with hopes of moving to a 7-0 to begin the year.

The No. 5 LSU baseball team returns to action Friday night for a three-game round-robin weekend with hopes of continuing their undefeated start to the season.

Virginia Tech, Toledo and Texas Southern will all come to Baton Rouge, and the Tigers will face each team once before the end of the weekend. LSU will get the Hokies Friday, followed by Toledo on Saturday then Texas Southern to cap off the series.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he enjoys hosting weekends like this because it provides the feel of a NCAA regional.

"That's why we do it," Mainieri said. "There are several reasons, but I like to do this at least once a year to give it a regional-type format. It's good for our players to play different teams, but to also play games without getting batting practice on the field before. It prepares you for inevitabilities. Then when it happens, it's not so shocking to the system."

Here are the pitching probables and start times for each contest:

Friday vs. Virginia Tech – 7 p.m. (televised by CST)
LSU – Jr. RHP Aaron Nola (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 0 BB, 6 SO)
VT – Sr. RHP Brad Markey (1-0, 1.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 0 BB, 9 SO)

Saturday vs. Toledo – 6 p.m.
LSU – Jr. LHP Kyle Bouman (1-0, 1.80 ERA, 5.0 IP, 0 BB, 1 SO)
TU – Sr. RHP Cameron Palmer (1-0, 1.80 ERA, 5.0 IP, 5 BB, 4 SO)

Sunday vs. Texas Southern – 3 p.m.
LSU – Fr. LHP Jared Poche' (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 0 BB, 6 SO)
TSU – Jr. RHP Devin Kanorik (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 3 BB, 3 SO)


Virginia Tech comes into Alex Box Stadium after splitting a pair of games last weekend. The Hokies were one of the nation's top teams in 2013, hosting a NCAA regional that Oklahoma ultimately won.

LSU will face senior starter Brad Markey on Friday. Markey was one of the ACC's best pitchers a year ago. He beat national powerhouse Florida State with a complete game during the 2013 regular season, then tossed eight scoreless innings against them in an ACC tournament rematch.

Markey's continued that hot start in 2014, tossing six innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts in an 8-1 victory against Delaware last weekend.

Toledo went 1-2 on their opening weekend with its lone victory coming against Norfolk State. The Rockets went 25-32 a year ago, including a 13-14 record in MAC play.

Mainieri is familiar though with the man in charge of the Toledo program. Rockets coach Corey Mee was a former assistant under Mainieri during his stint at Notre Dame, and Mainieri said he has a tremendous amount of respect for what Mee's been able to accomplish.

"I just watched them work out, and they were peppering the stands in batting practice," Mainieri said. "They've got some athletic-looking guys, some tough kids."

This weekend will mark LSU's first-ever meeting with both Virginia Tech and Toledo. The Tigers have faced Texas Southern once before in a 2008 regional held in Baton Rouge. LSU won that contest 12-1 and went on to advance to Mainieri's first College World Series with the Tigers.

Texas Southern's off to a 2-3 start, including an 8-4 victory against Lamar on Wednesday. TSU's Sunday starter, Devin Kanorik, fired off six hitless innings Sunday in his first start of the season, a 1-0 defeat of South Dakota State.

"It's really going to be good baseball," Mainieri said. "You play the games, you respect all your opponents, and you go out and play hard. It's another weekend for us to play well and anything can happen."

Kurt McCune's been a key part of LSU's strong bullpen
Entering the second weekend of the season, there aren't as many question marks with this LSU team as there were a week ago. The catcher position still remains up in the air, and Mainieri will stick with the same rotation as he did last week. Chris Chinea will catch Friday, followed by Tyler Moore on Saturday and Kade Scivicque will catch the weekend finale.

Outside of that position though, it appears this team is starting to settle into their roles. The pitching rotation remains the same after all three starters earned victories in their 2014 debuts, but Mainieri did say Aaron Nola may extend to seven innings this time around.

Mainieri expects all of his available relievers to see time this weekend, and he's been more than pleased with the bullpen's production thus far. Outside of Brady Domangue, no other LSU reliever has allowed a run this season, and they'll try to continue that trend this weekend.

"Every time I hear Coach Mainieri talk about the bullpen, it sounds like compliments," said senior closer candidate Kurt McCune. "I think the coaches are getting really comfortable with our bullpen."

Offensively, the Tigers will look to ride the momentum from a seven-run performance Wednesday against Southeastern Louisiana. Mainieri is still somewhat tinkering with the lineup, but he said he liked the charge that Conner Hale provided in the cleanup spot.

Hitting fourth in the order for the first time this season, Hale had three hits Wednesday and also drove in a run. Mainieri said that could be a permanent spot for Hale, and the JUCO transfer is starting to remind him of another noteworthy transfer.

"I'm not trying to put him in the same category, but he reminds me a lot of Raph Rhymes," Mainieri said. "He's just a guy that's going to make a lot of contact, with occasional power, but he's not going to strike out much. Rhymes drove in a lot of runs for us, and Hale might be that kind of guy."

LSU admitted last weekend after some closer-than-expected victories that opening weekend nerves played a part in a somewhat slow start. The players said this week though that all jitters are gone and the team is ready to continue improving as the season wares on.

"I know what to expect now with the crowd and pressure," Hale said. "I'm used to it now so I can just go out and have fun."


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