IN THE FIELD: Around the LSU Baseball diamond

When the 2007 baseball season begins on Feb. 6, fans will see many new names in the starting lineup.

While this is usually the case after seniors graduate and leave and freshmen come in, that is only part of the case of this year's LSU squad.


Coach Paul Mainieri started the fall as a "somewhat tryout" for all players part of the LSU baseball team.


Each player had to re-prove himself as to why he deserves a spot on the field and in the batting order.


Mainieri and his newly assembled coaching staff did not look at past accomplishments of any players, but instead observed what they were capable of during the fall practice before breaking for Christmas.


Therefore, the coaches are still a little shaky on confirming an entire assured lineup, but for the time being they have put their confidence in a few players to take the field day in and day out.


While Mainieri is unquestionably certain that junior Michael Hollander will be at shortstop, he has also found use for three players who all signed as catchers for LSU.


"I believe that Robert Lara will be our number one catcher," Mainieri said. "J.T. Wise will go into the season being our third baseman. Sean Ochinko, who is a freshman, came in here as a catcher but will go into the season being our starting first baseman. So really our top three catchers, Wise, Ochinko and Lara, are all in our starting lineup. I feel very confident in our catching position."


While the majority of the infield is final, coaches are still concerned about which player is capable of winning over the second base position.


"None of our players that have played there this fall did well enough unequivocally to take hold of the position," Mainieri said. "I'm hoping that in these next three or four weeks that somebody will."


Junior Chris Jackson is in the running for the position but could not participate in the fall because of football. Jackson's kicking duties for the football team are now complete after his senior season ended with the Sugar Bowl game against Mainieri's old team, Notre Dame. (Because of eligibility?  Perhaps explain the discrepancy between junior in baseball and senior in football.)


The outfield is still as big of a question mark as second base.


"I don't think anyone really asserted themselves to where you can say they will start every day," Mainieri said. "The player closest to that would be Steve Waguespack. Steven Broschofsky you could say the same thing about."


Two freshmen were not able to participate in fall practice but will still be considered for a starting position in the outfield.


Freshman Blake Dean broke his wrist the first day of fall practice and was not able to display his strengths in the outfield to the coaches. Fellow freshman Jared Mitchell was also not able to participate because of his prior obligations to the football team as a wide receiver for the Tigers. Both players, however, will be able to rejoin the baseball team when practice resumes at the end of January.


"Between those five guys, I think we're going to come up with three pretty good outfielders," Mainieri said. "I just don't know who those three are going to be yet."


The designated hitter position is still up for grabs as well.


While Mainieri and his staff continue to weigh the strengths of different players at different positions, being at LSU gives him one advantage during this decision-making process as opposed to being at Notre Dame.


"The nice thing for me that I'm not used to is that in the last 12 years at Notre Dame, I had to determine our starting lineup at the end of fall practice because the next time outdoors was going to be our first game," Mainieri said. "Here I got three or four weeks of outdoor practice. It's kind of an extension of what we were doing in the fall before we determine who are going to be the starting players or have a better idea."

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