LSU Baseball ready to roll in 2007

The cry of "Play Ball" can't come soon enough for LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri.

Though the 2007 season opener is still more than a week away, an enthusiastic Mainieri appeared ready after Wednesday's spirited practice to begin his first year as the Tigers' skipper.

The workout on Wednesday completed LSU's first week of full-squad preseason drills. The Tigers open the season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9 versus Saint Mary's (Calif.) in Alex Box Stadium.

"I think we are light years ahead of where we were at the end of fall practice," Mainieri said. "My confidence in this team grows with each passing day."

Mainieri said the addition to the squad of second baseman Chris Jackson and outfielder Jared Mitchell – both football players who missed fall baseball practice – and the return of outfielder/pitcher Blake Dean, who suffered broken wrist in the fall, have bolstered the Tigers' lineup.

"I said during fall practice that I thought we were missing a third of our starting lineup," Mainieri said, "and that appears to be exactly the case. Having Chris, Jared and Blake with us make a tremendous difference in our team."

Mainieri said that junior left-hander Charlie Furbush will start next Friday's season opener against Saint Mary's, with sophomore right-hander Louis Coleman slated to start Game 2 the following day. The Tigers' Game 3 starter has yet to be determined.

Furbush is a transfer from Saint Joseph's (Maine), where he was 10-1 last season with a 2.89 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 74.2 innings. Coleman earned five wins last year in LSU's starting rotation, including impressive SEC outings versus league champion Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn.

Junior right-hander Jared Bradford, a JUCO all-American from Shelton State (Ala.) College, will begin the season as LSU's closer.

Mainieri said he is not bothered by LSU's lack of recognition in the preseason polls. The Tigers do not appear in any of the Top 25 rankings, and LSU was picked to finish fourth in the SEC West by the league coaches.

"Those polls really don't mean anything to us," Mainieri said, "except that it gives us a chance to prove people wrong and take advantage of their low expectations.

"What I do know is that our team will scratch and claw for nine innings every day, and I believe we will earn our share of success."

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