Play ball!

The excitement surrounding the LSU baseball program is at a fever pitch as the Tigers enter the 2009 campaign ranked No. 1 in the country. Fans have plenty more to be excited about with the opening of the New Alex Box Stadium and after two years of planning the Tigers will take the field in their new venue on Friday at 7:15 p.m. when Villanova heads South for a three-game series.

Scouting Villanova

LSU returns 24 players that contributed to last season’s run to the College World Series led by seven everyday starters and nine pitchers that recorded innings in the run to Omaha.

 

Villanova returns four starters from last year’s squad that finished 30-28 overall and qualified for the Big East Tournament for only the second time in the last 11 years.

 

The Wildcats have looked forward to this series through all of their off-season work and know what awaits them in Baton Rouge.

 

"There are a lot of opportunities on the field this weekend for Villanova against one of college baseball's true heavyweights," Villanova Head Coach Joe Godri said. "In LSU we have a team that is one of the three crown jewels of college baseball. If you were going to rattle off the three teams that come to mind when you think of college baseball, LSU, Texas and Arizona State are going to be mentioned in every conversation."

 

Teams from the Big East Conference have not fared well when matching up against those from the Southeastern Conference over the last four years, going 6-27 over that span. Villanova has two of those victories with wins at Florida in 2005 and at Alabama in 2007.

 

LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri knows plenty about the Villanova program from the 12 seasons he spent at Notre Dame prior to coming to LSU, and he expects that this series opener will be more difficult than fans expect.

 

“We have a very formidable opponent this weekend,” Mainieri said. “I know in this part of the country you don’t hear much about Villanova as a baseball team, but I can tell you that they will be a very representative team. They know how to play and have an excellent coach in Joe Godri.

 

“They have a lot of young, hard-nosed kids. They are very young this year; they lost three or four of their better players to graduation. I expect that they’ll come in and play with a lot of spirit and a lot of energy and play very well. We get distracted by the new stadium, but at 7:15 the first pitch is thrown and the idea is to go out there and play a good ball game.”

 

When LSU takes the field, Louis Coleman will be on the mound. The senior right hander turned down an offer from the Washington Nationals to return for his senior season and he will make his first, and perhaps his only, start of the season.

 

“The plan right now is for Louis to go four or five innings, probably a 75-pitch maximum, and then Nolan Cain will be the first guy out of the bullpen and hopefully burn up four or five innings and then we need to see who we can finish up with,” said Mainieri.

 

The Tigers have a wealth of talent from top to bottom in the batting order and there will be no easy outs for Villanova starter Chris Pack. The sophomore right-hander, who went 4-3 last year with a 5.17 ERA, will find the Tiger hitters more formidable opponents than he faced last season led by four Baseball America magazine pre-season All-America selections in Blake Dean, Ryan Schimpf, Jared Mitchell and DJ LeMahieu.

 

Dean receiver first team All-America recognition last season after he hit a team-best .353 (95-for-269) with 18 doubles, three triples, 20 homers and 73 RBI.

 

The Tigers hit .306 as a team last season and their 100 home runs were second to only Georgia, who finished with 110 dingers on the year.

 

There have been many months of anticipation with the pre-season accolades that have been thrown LSU’s way, but Mainieri feels that his club has handled everything well and knows that it’s time to play ball.

 

"We’ve talked about it and gone over it extensively and I think now it’s in a great perspective and we realize that everything we gain we have to earn on the field,” said the headman.

 

 

Villanova Wildcats (0-0) at LSU Tigers (0-0)

 

DATES/TIMES 

Friday, February 20 – 7 p.m. CT; Saturday, February 21 – 2 p.m. CT; Sunday, February 22 – Noon CT

 

STADIUM

Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. (9,200)

 

RANKINGS

LSU - No. 1 by Collegiate Baseball and USA Today/ESPN; No. 2 by Baseball America

Villanova - Unranked

  

RADIO

·         LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates

·         The Baton Rouge affiliate is WDGL 98.1 FM

·         Pregame show starts at 6:30 p.m.

 

INTERNET

www.LSUsports.net – live video, audio and stats

 

TV

Friday – Cox Sports Television (Cable Ch. 37 in Baton Rouge)

(Cox will go on the air at 6:30 p.m.)

Saturday – none

Sunday – none

 

PROMOTIONS

FRIDAY

- Ceremonies commemorating the opening of the New Alex Box Stadium begin at 6:15 p.m.

- Commemorative pennants will be distributed to the first 5000 fans entering the gates

 

SATURDAY

- Mardi Gras beads distributed to first 2500 fans entering the gates

- Sky divers will land on the field prior to the game

 

SUNDAY

- Kids 12 and under can run the bases following the game

- LSU schedule posters will be distributed to fans as they exit the stadium

 

SERIES RECORD

First meeting between the schools

 

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1

LSU – Sr. RHP Louis Coleman (2008:  8-1, 1.95 ERA, 55.1 IP, 10 BB, 62 SO)

VU   –  So. RHP Chris Pack (2008:  4-3, 5.17 ERA, 25 BB, 38 SO)

 

Game 2

LSU – So. RHP Anthony Ranaudo (2008:  1-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 IP, 6 BB, 13 SO

VU   Jr. RHP Brian Streilein (2008:  6-4, 5.26 ERA, 25 BB, 56 SO)

 

Game 3

LSU – So. RHP Austin Ross (2008:  3-1, 2.58 ERA, 52.1 IP, 9 BB, 37 SO)

VU   Fr. LH Kyle Helsiek (high school in 2008)


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