BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The LSU baseball team set some very high standards as the Tigers are ranked in the top 10 of three college baseball preseason polls.
LSU is ranked No. 2 in the 2014 USA Today Coaches, No. 3 in the Collegiate Baseball newspaper and No. 9 in the Baseball America magazine.
"We have a lot of big shoes to fill," said head coach Paul Mainieri. "Out here people don't want to hear excuses. They just want to see you reload and get ready to go. Fortunately for us we have a good foundation of players returning. I really like some of our new players. I think they will be ready to go. We are ready to get after it. I think we have a team that is going to be able to make a run again.
"Our goal every year is to roll out of bed and expect to go to Omaha to play for a national championship. In order to do that you have to compete very favorably in the SEC. I think we have a team that can do that. I am looking forward to it. We still have a way to go to put the team in that position, but it will be a great journey. I am looking forward to it."
Reigning Freshman and Shortstop of the Year Alex Bregman, Friday night ace Aaron Nola and 3rd baseman Christian Ibarra look to take more of a leadership role with a young team. The Tigers will open the 2014 season on Friday, February 14 against UNO in Alex Box Stadium.
"Opening Day will be very special for me personally," said Mainieri. "We are playing the University of New Orleans, and my mentor and second father, Ron Maestri, is back in the dugout for the Privateers. That will be very unique for me. I am not sure I am going to enjoy it that much. I will enjoy it when it is over, but it's going to be great seeing Coach Maestri back in the dugout and contributing to the UNO program again."
SEC play will begin one month after with their weekend series at Vanderbilt.
"In the middle of March we open up with Vanderbilt with our 30-game schedule in the SEC," said Mainieri. "By then, I think we will have a pretty good grasp on our team. There is no hiding the fact that we have lost a lot outstanding players from last year's team.
"Particularly, Raph Rhymes who led the nation in hitting two years ago, Mason Katz who led the SEC in home runs last year, Chris Cotton who was our all-world closer last year, and of course our starting catcher, our second baseman, and a lot of guys from the bullpen."