BATON ROUGE -- LSU opens its 2008 baseball season at 7 p.m. Friday versus Indiana, beginning the Tigers’ final year in Alex Box Stadium.
The venerable facility, which opened in 1938, will yield its position as LSU’s home park in 2009 to the New Alex Box Stadium, which is currently under construction.
“I think it’s only appropriate that we send this old stadium out in a very proper way,” said second-year LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Make no mistake about it, our goal is to get postseason play back into old Alex Box Stadium for one last time so we can relive a little bit of the old glory days of LSU baseball. I think we have a chance to do that. I really feel we have a team put together that has a chance to be pretty good.
“I describe it to a lot of people that I feel like last year everything had to go perfect for us to win a game in the SEC, and somehow we were able to win some pretty big games. Now I feel like we have the talent to jump into the fight. I don’t think there will be a lot of teams in the SEC significantly more talented than us. I think we are going to be right in there fighting every step of the way.”
Game 2 of the LSU-Indiana series will start at 1 p.m. Saturday, and Game 3 begins at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Tickets for each game are $8 for adults and $4 for children ages 3-12. Tickets are available at Alex Box Stadium each day two hours prior to first pitch, or they may be purchased and printed at www.LSUsports.net.
All three games will be carried by the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network. Live audio and video of the games may also be accessed in the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net.
The 2008 Tigers feature 18 returning players, plus 20 newcomers that Collegiate Baseball magazine rated as the nation’s top recruiting class. The class includes nine players selected in the Major League Baseball draft.
LSU returns 10 position players with starting experience, including 2006 all-SEC infielder Michael Hollander and a pair of 2007 Freshmen all-SEC selections outfielder Blake Dean and catcher Sean Ochinko.
Hollander, a senior third baseman, batted .279 last season with 10 doubles, five homers and 26 RBI. He moves to third base this season after playing shortstop for the past three years.
Dean, who will start in left field Friday, was LSU’s leading hitter last season, batting .316 with 12 doubles, seven homers and 46 RBI. Ochinko also hit seven homers in 2007, and he batted .277 with five doubles and 32 RBI.
The Tigers also welcome back seven pitchers who recorded innings last season, including 2008 preseason all-American Jared Bradford, LSU’s leader in wins (10) and saves (five) last season.
Bradford, who will start Friday’s game for LSU, has been named to the preseason Watch Lists for the Golden Spikes Award and for the Brooks Wallace Award.
Indiana coach Tracy Smith will send junior right-hander Tyler Tufts to the mound in Friday’s opener. Tufts was 3-9 last season with a team-best 4.21 ERA, recording 17 walks and 42 strikeouts.
The Hoosiers’ top returning hitter is junior outfielder Andrew Means, who hit .369 in 2007 with 10 doubles, one homer and 30 RBI. Sophomore shortstop Evan Crawford batted .333 last season with 13 doubles, one homer and 30 RBI.
“Indiana has some outstanding ball players,” Mainieri said. “They are in a building stage of their program, but their coach is really outstanding. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see an Indiana team that is remarkably improved over their previous teams, so we’re excited about the competition. I think it’s an outstanding opening series because they are going to be a very good team that challenges us.”
Friday’s game versus Indiana will mark the latest start for an LSU baseball team since Feb. 22, 1985, when the Tigers opened at Central Florida. The series versus Indiana marks the Tigers’ first meeting with a Big 10 opponent since the 2001 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, when LSU defeated Minnesota, 10-9.
LSU leads its series with Indiana, 1-0-1, as the teams’ two meetings occurred in 1926 in Baton Rouge. LSU won the first game over the Hoosiers, 17-11, before the teams played to a 3-3 tie in Game 2.
“We are going to enter the games with a great deal of confidence, and we’re going to get after it,” Mainieri said. “I believe we are going to play well. It’s very important for our team to get off to a good start so that what happens is all the things that we have been telling the players for months comes to fruition. That gives a lot of credibility to you as a coach with your players when they do what you tell them to do, and then they go out there and have success.”
Indiana Hoosiers (19-35 in 2007) at LSU Fighting Tigers (29-26-1 in 2007)
Friday, Feb. 22 7 p.m. CST; Saturday, Feb. 23 1 p.m. CST; Sunday, Feb. 24 11 a.m. CST
Alex Box Stadium (7,760) in Baton Rouge, La.
$8 adults, $4 children ages 3-12 -- available at Alex Box Stadium each day two hours prior to first pitch; tickets may also be purchased and printed at www.LSUsports.net
LSU football coach Les Miles will throw out the ceremonial first pitch
LSU football tight end Richard Dickson will throw out the ceremonial first pitch;
Free schedule posters and schedule cards will be given to fans as they enter the stadium
LSU baseball and football players Jared Mitchell and Chad Jones will throw out the ceremonial first pitch
All kids ages 12 and under may run the bases on the field after the game
All games this weekend on LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates
The Baton Rouge affiliate on Friday and Sunday is WDGL 98.1 FM
The Baton Rouge affiliate on Saturday is WTGE 107.3 FM
www.LSUsports.net live video, audio and stats
Members of the Geaux Zone can watch live streaming video of 32 of 36 home baseball games this season. Due to the SEC's agreement with FOX Sports Net, only two of five Saturday SEC home contests may be streamed. LSU will stream the Arkansas game on March 22 and the South Carolina game on April 26.
Members of the Geaux Zone can listen to 55 of 56 regular season baseball games in 2008 (the broadcast status of March 2 Duquesne game is to be determined).
To join the Geaux Zone, visit LSUsports.net. Monthly audio-only memberships are available for as little as $4.95, with annual packages available. Premium (video) subscriptions start at $9.95 per month.
Live stats for all 36 home games are available free to the public on LSUsports.net/livestats.
LSU leads, 1-0-1 (the teams met twice in Baton Rouge in 1926)
LSU Sr. RHP Jared Bradford (10-4, 4.41 ERA, 96.0 IP, 16 BB, 81 SO in 2007)
IU Jr. RHP Tyler Tufts (3-9, 4.21 ERA, 87.2 IP, 17 BB, 42 SO in 2007)
LSU Jr. RHP Jordan Brown (transfer from Meridian (Miss.) Community College)
IU So. LHP Matt Bashore (4-7, 4.35 ERA, 70.2 IP, 29 BB, 50 SO in 2007)
LSU Jr. LHP Ryan Byrd (6-2, 4.74 ERA, 68.1 IP, 21 BB, 35 SO in 2007)