The Tigers, ranked No. 17 by Collegiate Baseball magazine, open the 2006 season at 6:30 p.m. Friday versus North Florida in Alex Box Stadium. Following are quotes from the coaching staff:
HEAD COACH SMOKE LAVAL
On the team's offensive philosophy this season …
"We don't have the 20-home run guys we had last season, so we'll have to do more this year to manufacture runs. In most cases, if you can score seven runs, you can win the ball game. That's what we'll try to do, reach that seven-run mark and hope that it holds up. You'll see us try to steal more, to hit-and-run more and do some things to apply pressure on the other team."
On the team's preseason rankings …
"That's not something we focus on with our players. Our focus is to get better and to play the way we're capable of playing. We try to compete against ourselves every day to make sure we are getting the best from the players. The focus is on one pitch at a time, one inning at a time."
On the infield lineup...
"At third base we're going to open up with will Harris there, and Victoriano will back him up and will play third when Will comes in to pitch. In the middle of our infield, they can play short, second, and third, but Michael Hollander has shortstop to himself here, he's defensively as good as you can probably have in Division I ball without somebody drafting him, so we've at least got him for another year. He's coming out offensively much better than he has been. Then we have the three freshmen with Buzzy Haydel, Nicholas Pontiff, and Jason Ogata. Right now Ogata's going to start and play second."
ASSISTANT COACH BRADY WIEDERHOLD
On the inexperience of the pitching lineup...
"Pitching-wise this year it's going to be quite a bit different. Last year we lost 327 innings out of 557 that were pitched. That's quite a bit of innings that we have to replace this year. So that's something that definitely we've been looking at in the fall and throughout the springtime thus far. And 94 of those inning actually that have come back were from Clay Dirks, so as you can see there is a big gap to fill for us this year pitching wise. The best word I can use for the pitching staff this year is going to be at this point untested. We're really not. Other than Clay Dirks coming back with the most experience obviously, we don't have a lot of guys with a lot of innings. Even the ones who came back last year, no one has more than 30 maybe 40 innings. There are some guys who are going to have to step up without a doubt."
On starters for opening weekend...
"On the top of everybody's list is who is going to be starting for the weekend and to be quite honest with you right now we have Clay Dirks who will go Friday night. He's the guy who deserves that spot. He's a guy that's won 18 games over the last 2 years in the SEC, and so he's the guy who really deserves to be given the ball at that point. Saturday will be more than likely Derik Olvey who is a transfer from Notre Dame. He's been very consistent for us throughout the fall and the spring thus far.
So when you look at consistency, which is what you've got to have in a starting pitcher on the weekend, he's the guy that's been there for us, and that will give us a chance to keep our team in the game long enough to get the offense going and give us a chance to win.
Now as far as Sunday goes, that's going to be announced. We'll talk about that later. There are plenty of guys who could be in that position. We'll do intra-squad a little bit today, we have some guys that are going to throw but there are a lot of different guys that could fill that role. That role could change obviously, that's why we play five weekends before we start the SEC."
On the theme of the season...
"It's got to be consistency for us. That's it. Whoever's most consistent is going to pitch. It's that way offensively, defensively any way you shake it up, but that's how it is for us so far."
ASSISTANT COACH JUSTIN HILL
On replenishing the outfield...
"We're going to have to fill pretty big voids, and that's in left and right field. Those two guys (Nick) Stavinoha and (Ryan) Patterson are in pro ball now, and the guys that are going to fill those voids are two seniors, they've proven themselves here and we're looking for those guys to give us the same kind of year we think they can give us. Bruce Sprowl will be playing left field, and he's going to be really important to our lineup this year, especially since we lost Chris Jackson due to an injury. Quinn Stewart is also going to be very important to us, he plays just as good of an outfielder as we need, but most importantly what he's going to bring to us is a power stick in the middle of our lineup."
ASSISTANT COACH TURTLE THOMAS
On senior and freshman dominance...
"From my offensive standpoint, a recurring theme is we've got seven of our nine players that are going to start for us are seniors and freshmen. Same thing in the outfield. You've got one freshman and two seniors, same thing with catching, you've got one senior, you've got one freshman that will do most of the catching this year. It's kind of a recurring theme for us this year."
On the batting lineup...
"We've got also seven right-handed batters, two left-handed batters that are going to be in the starting lineup this coming Friday night against North Florida. Our lead-off hitter Bruce Sprowl, of course is a very good home base guy, very good bat handler, really does better when he gets the ball up the middle into the opposite field versus pulling the ball."
BASEBALL MEDIA DAY QUOTES
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