Naccarata adjusting nicely at LSU

When most Tiger fans think about Canada, they envision cold weather, hockey, Mounties, and nice people with funny accents.<br><br>With the recent play of LSU's own Canadian import, junior third/second baseman Ivan Naccarata, they may begin to think of good baseball.

Naccarata arrived at LSU from Longueuil, Quebec via Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla. According to him, the experience in Florida helped prepare him for the transition from the Great White North to southern Louisiana.

"It's a little bit of a culture shock, but not really," he says. "I've already been in a small town. There it was rednecks whereas here it's Cajuns. It's different, but it's real similar. I love it here though."

Tiger fans are sharing the love. Naccarata is currently in the midst of an 18-game hitting streak and is leading the Tigers with a .372 batting average. He's also tops on the team in hits (27) and RBIs (17). He also has four doubles, two triples, and two homeruns.

"I'm seeing the ball really well right now," Naccarata tells Tiger Rag. "I just try to see the ball and hit the ball, that's my approach. To me, if you think too much (about the pitch), and you think he's going to throw you a curve ball and he doesn't, then it's no balls and one strike, and you're down and you have to fight back."

Naccarata says he plays his best when he plays on instinct, which is why he's been excellent at third base for LSU.

"I feel way more comfortable at third base. You have less time to react and think about the play. It's like being a goaltender in soccer or hockey, you're right there and you just react to where the ball goes."

Naccarata started the season at second base with Aaron Hill at third, but after a few games Hill was moved back to shortstop and Naccarata put at the hot corner. The move has paid off, as he has a .938 fielding percentage at third, fifth best at the position in the Southeastern Conference.

LSU head coach Smoke Laval agrees that Naccarata is good fit at third.

"Being at third allows him to get in the flow of the game a little sooner," said Laval. "I think he's good enough to play second too though."

Naccarata isn't a typical third baseman, at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, but he has a great arm for making the throws over to first and is excellent at getting leather on the ball.

In the final game of the Florida series, Naccarata made a spectacular diving catch on a short line drive in the ninth inning. The hit by Florida's Jeff Corsaletti came off the bat quickly and took a sharp curve down towards the infield dirt, but Naccarata managed to get his glove underneath it.

Aside from his defense, the Gators are no doubt thrilled to be done facing Naccarata's bat. He was 6-13 in the Florida series with five RBIs and a triple.

Laval spent most of the early part of the season shuffling the batting order, but against Florida he seemed to have found a winning formula. After hitting in the lower part of the lineup early in the season, Naccarata batted cleanup against the Gators behind Aaron Hill.

"Ivan's been a great hitter," Laval said after the Florida series. "He just gets up and swings the bat; that's what he gets paid to do."

Naccarata's hitting streak is one short of tying the longest hitting streak any LSU player had in 2002 (19 games by the late Wally Pontiff), but he doesn't dwell on the streak too much.

"When you've got something like this going, you can't think about it because if you think about it, that's when you're going to try too hard," he said. "You just have to go out and play the game."

Naccarata's flourishing on the field has been noticed by the LSU faithful, and Ivan, who is fluent in French and Slovenian aside from English, has definitely taken a shine to LSU baseball fans.

"I went over to a bunch of tailgaters before a game one day, and I heard them speaking French and I was able to talk to them. Cajun people are a trip."

"When I first got here to Baton Rouge, I was amazed at how many people came to the games - way more then where I was back in Florida.

"I love it here. It's such a great place to play baseball."

In the year 2000, Naccarata was a member of the Canadian National Team and a 40th round draft pick of the Montreal Expos. But he chose to head to Chipola for baseball in hopes of improving his stock.

After two seasons at the junior college, he was a 21st round selection of the Houston Astros in 2002.

Naccarata seeks further improvement and it certainly appears that he's doing that at LSU.

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