Baseball Set to Open Fall Practice on Sunday

by Bill Franques
Baseball Set to Open Fall Practice on Sunday

BATON ROUGE — The 2011 LSU baseball squad takes the field for the first time at 1 p.m. Sunday, as the Tigers begin their five-week fall baseball practice period in Alex Box Stadium.

The fall practice session continues through Nov. 5. All workouts in Alex Box Stadium are open to the public.

“Our two most important goals in the fall, ” said fifth-year LSU coach Paul Mainieri, “are to begin building  our pitching staff and to develop our new catchers. Those are the target areas we’d like to address right away.

“Our program is entering into a new era with a great mix of veterans and newcomers. We’re extremely optimistic about this season and we can’t wait to get started.”

The Tigers have engaged for the last month in strength and conditioning drills and individual workouts on the field.

“This appears to be a very athletic team,” Mainieri said. “We have a lot of guys that run fast and look to be in great shape.”

Mainieri said with the new NCAA bat standards that are in place for the 2011 season, a premium will be placed upon speed and hitting into the gaps.

“The bats that we begin using this season perform almost just like wood bats,” Mainieri explained, “so there will be a greater emphasis placed on running and hitting line drives. We will have to be adept at that type of game.”

The 2011 season begins on February 18, when the Tigers play host to Wake Forest in Alex Box Stadium.

The LSU roster includes 19 lettermen from the 2010 club, including eight position players with starting experience and nine pitchers that recorded innings last season.

Junior outfielder Mikie Mahtook, junior shortstop Austin Nola and junior second baseman Tyler Hanover are two-year starters that form the core of LSU’s veteran leadership.  Other Tigers returning that made significant contributions in 2010 include junior outfielder Trey Watkins, junior utility player Grant Dozar, sophomore outfielder Mason Katz and  sophomore infielders Alex Edward and Beau Didier.

The pitching staff is led by junior all-America right-hander Matty Ott, who has 27 career saves, just two shy of the all-time LSU saves record of 29 held by Rick Greene (1990-92).

Ott is joined by a talented group of hurlers that includes senior right-handers Ben Alsup and Daniel Bradshaw, sophomore left-handers Zach LaSuzzo, Chris Cotton and Forrest Garrett, and sophomore right-hander Michael Reed.

The LSU veterans are complemented by a talented class of 19 newcomers, including eight players that were selected in the 2010 Major League Draft. LSU’s incoming class was voted No. 1 in the nation in the annual Collegiate Baseball magazine recruiting survey.

“We have a tremendous class of new players that will significantly impact our program,” Mainieri said. “I think our fans will really enjoy watching these young men perform throughout their careers.”