Baseball readies for North Florida series

Here's what you need to know going into the weekend series with the North Florida Ospreys.

SERIES FACTS

North Florida Ospreys (1-1) at #17 LSU Fighting Tigers (0-0)

 

DATES/TIMES 

Friday, Feb. 10 – 6:30 p.m. CST; Saturday, Feb. 11 – 2 p.m. CST; Sunday, Feb. 12 – 1 p.m. CST 

 

STADIUM:  Alex Box Stadium (7,760) in Baton Rouge, La.

  

RANKINGS: LSU (# 17 Collegiate Baseball, #19 Sports Weekly/ESPN, # 22 Baseball America)

                     North Florida (unranked)

 

TICKETS:  $8 adults, $5 children ages 3-12 -- available at Alex Box Stadium each day two hours prior to first pitch

 

SPECIAL EVENTS/PROMOTIONS: 

FRIDAY

  • Free Schedule Magnets courtesy of the LSU Bookstore to all fans in attendance

 

SATURDAY

  • Pregame recognition of the family of the late DeWayne "Beetle" Bailey, former LSU assistant coach
  • First 500 fans receive an LSU Baseball T-shirt courtesy of Russell Athletic

 

SUNDAY

  • Following the game, kids 12 and under get to run the bases

 

RADIO: 

FRIDAY AND SUNDAY

statewide on LSU Sports Network (WDGL 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge)

 

SATURDAY

statewide on LSU Sports Network (WTGE 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge)

 

INTERNET:  radio broadcast, streaming video and live stats of all three games in the Geaux Zone powered by USAgencies at www.LSUsports.net

 

TV:  none

 

SERIES RECORD:  first meeting

 

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1

LSU -- Jr. LHP Clay Dirks (10-4, 3.24 ERA, 94.1 IP, 27 BB, 67 SO in 2005)

UNF – Sr. RHP Jacob Dixon (1-0, 1.80 ERA, 5.0 IP, 4 BB, 6 SO)

 

Game 2

LSU – Jr. RHP Derik Olvey (transfer from Notre Dame)

UNF -- TBA

 

Game 3

LSU – TBA

UNF – TBA

 

BATON ROUGE, La. – No. 17 LSU (0-0) opens its 2006 baseball season by playing host to North Florida (1-1) this weekend in a three-game series at Alex Box Stadium.

 

Game 1 of the series is set for 6:30 p.m. CST Friday, Game 2 begins at 2 p.m. CST Saturday and Game 3 starts at 1 p.m. CST Sunday.

 

The games will be broadcast statewide on the LSU Sports Radio Network. The games on Friday and Sunday can be heard in Baton Rouge on WDGL 98.1 FM, and the Baton Rouge affiliate for Saturday's game is WTGE 107.3 FM.

 

The audio broadcast, streaming video and live stats are also available in the Geaux Zone powered by USAgencies at www.LSUsports.net.

 

None of the three games will be televised.

 

Smoke Laval's first four seasons as coach of the Tigers have featured several significant accomplishments, as he has directed the Tigers to two College World Series appearances, one SEC championship, two SEC Western Division titles and two Top 10 finishes. Laval, the 2003 SEC Coach of the Year, has also guided LSU to the best SEC regular-season record in the past four seasons, posting a 75-43-1 (.634) mark.

 

The 2005 Tigers posted a 40-22 overall mark, winning 13 of their final 17 conference games to claim the SEC Western Division crown. LSU then played host to an NCAA Regional tournament for the 16th consecutive season.

 

Laval hopes to build upon those achievements in 2006, though some of the Tigers' methods may change. Laval's previous clubs have, for the most part, been veteran teams with powerful sluggers. The '06 LSU squad is a young group (23 freshmen and sophomores) that will take a different offensive approach.

 

"We don't have the 20-home run guys we had last season," Laval said, "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."

 

LSU, which finished the 2005 season ranked No. 18 in the nation, features 15 returning lettermen – including seven pitchers and six position players with starting experience -- and a 14-man signing class.

 

Junior left-hander Clay Dirks, an all-conference selection last year, will take the mound for the Tigers in Friday's season opener. Dirks posted a 10-4 mark with a 3.24 ERA last season, and he fired three complete games, including a shutout at Arkansas. Dirks worked 94.1 innings, recording 27 walks, 67 strikeouts and a .233 opponent batting average.

 

"Clay Dirks will go Friday night because he's the guy who deserves that spot," LSU pitching coach Brady Wiederhold said. "He's won 18 games over the last two years pitching in the SEC, so he really deserves to be given the ball to start the year."

 

North Florida, playing in its first season in NCAA Division I, is coached by Dusty Rhodes, who is in his 19th season at the school. UNF, the NCAA Division II national runners-up last season, is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

 

"Dusty and I have been very close friends for a long time," Laval said, "so I know the caliber of program that he has. They will throw some great arms at us, and they will be ready to play, that's for sure."

 

North Florida opened its 2006 season last weekend by splitting two games at Georgia Southern. Senior right-hander Jacob Dixon, Friday's scheduled starter against LSU, posted a 7-2 victory over Georgia Southern last Saturday by allowing two runs on two hits in five innings with four walks and six strikeouts.

 

Georgia Southern won the second game of the series, 11-3, last Sunday.

 

The LSU lineup will be bolstered this season by the return of senior catcher Matt Liuzza, the 30th-round draft selection of the Chicago Cubs last summer. Liuzza, a superb defender behind the plate, batted .251 (43-for-171) in 2005 with 10 doubles, three homers, 24 RBI and 30 runs. Liuzza is a career .301 hitter with 16 homers and 95 RBI in three seasons (159 starts).

 

The LSU infield will rely upon the leadership of senior Will Harris, who has made 105 starts during his career. Harris endured a difficult 2005 season, batting just .213; however, he hit .329 in 2004 with nine doubles, seven homers and 39 RBI. Harris, a first baseman in his first three collegiate seasons, will play third base in 2006.

           

Two more seniors with considerable experience – Bruce Sprowl (96 career starts) and Quinn Stewart (70 career starts) – return to the LSU outfield. Sprowl hit. 264 (38-for-144) last season with double, two triples, two homers, 13 RBI, 28 runs and five steals. Stewart hit .250 (29-for-116) in 2005 with seven doubles, two triples, three homers, 13 RBI and 19 runs.       

 

Sophomore Michael Hollander (.246, 1 HR, 14 RBI) returns as the Tigers' projected starting shortstop. He saw substantial playing time as a freshman, appearing in 44 games (38 starts).

 

Steven Waguespack, a transfer from Delgado Community College in New Orleans, will play first base while returning starter Jordan Mayer recovers from a broken thumb suffered during preseason practice. Mayer, a Freshman All-SEC designated hitter last season, is expected to return to the lineup prior to LSU's first conference series on March 17 at Kentucky.

 

Four true freshmen – outfielder Jarred Bogany, infielder J.T. Wise, catcher Robert Lara and infielder Jason Ogata – will be counted upon to make immediate contributions. Bogany (15th round, Pittsburgh), Lara (17th round, Minnesota) and Ogata (50th round, San Diego) were 2005 draft selections, and Wise has been impressive at the plate during LSU's preseason drills.

 


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