In about three weeks, coach Paul Mainieri will have his eyes on third base.
The Tigers begin full-squad practices for the fall season on Oct. 6, a day when the offseason ends and the 2015 team starts to take shape.
Mainieri’s top priority: replacing Christian Ibarra at third base.
Conner Hale, a second and first baseman last season, Danny Zardon and freshman Greg Deichmann will get a crack at filling in for Ibarra at third, Mainieri said. The trio will alternate at the position during the fall season.
Ibarra was known for his quick hands and nifty defensive plays at the hot corner.
“Since the bats have changed, I’ve seen an inordinate amount of choppers in the infield and bunting,” Mainieri said. “So your third baseman’s ability to come in and make plays is critical. Mess up a couple of those plays in a game and you’ll lose the game because of it.”
Zardon, a sophomore, played in a reserve role at third last season, while Hale was an every-game starter at second or first base. Deichmann is a highly rated freshman from Metairie. Hale and Zardon, Mainieri said, could also play first or second.
Mainieri has decided on other infield position battles for the fall.
Sophomore Kramer Robertson, a 30-game starter at second last year, and freshman Grayson Byrd will each play two weeks at shortstop and two weeks at second base during the four-week fall season. They’ll have a shot to win the job at second base for 2015 and possibly show Mainieri if they can replace starter Alex Bregman at shortstop in 2016.
Bregman, a junior, is eligible for the draft in June, and Mainieri called his possible absence “a big concern going into next year.”
Freshmen Michael Papierski and Bryce Jordan, and junior Chris Chinea and senior Kade Scivicque will all rotate at catcher and first base, Mainieri said.
Andrew Stevenson, Mark Laird and Jake Fraley return in the outfield. Outfielder Chris Sciambra, who walked on to the football team this fall, will split time between football and baseball. Freshman Beau Jordan will play in the outfield and so could walk-on Turner Graham, the coach said.
Mainieri hasn’t decided between his starting pitchers and bullpen guys.
LSU baseball on TV
Each Southeastern Conference baseball game this season is expected to air on one of five ESPN networks or online at ESPN3.com, the network told SEC baseball coaches in Birmingham, Alabama, earlier this month.
“We had a presentation from the ESPN people as well as the SEC Network people,” Mainieri said. “Their goal is to have every conference game — all seven every weekend — televised to some degree.”
ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews and SEC Network will carry conference games. Those conference games not picked up by television will be digitally streamed on ESPN3.com.
LSU expects to stream “most, if not all” nonconference home baseball games, said Kevin Wagner, LSU’s assistant athletic director for television operations. The school would be in charge of producing the games — as it did the now-defunct GeauxZone — but they would be streamed on ESPN3.
Wagner can’t say for sure that each LSU home nonconference game will be covered because of possible conflicts with other LSU sports. The SEC Network is mandating each school to digitally produce 40 events a year in all sports.
“If they assign me LSU softball at the same time as a baseball game that’s not been picked up on TV, I can’t do both,” Wagner said. “I’d have no choice but the one assigned to me.”
Assignments for spring sports will likely come in January, Wagner said.
LSU has seven nonconference road games scheduled in 2015. The home team will have an option to stream those games if they’re not picked up for television.
Extra staff member
SEC coaches are pushing for the creation of a third full-time assistant, Mainieri said.
It’s one of many possible rule changes the power five conferences can make after being granted autonomy earlier this year.
Baseball staffs are limited to a head coach, two full-time assistants and a volunteer assistant.
“We’d like to have the volunteer spot converted into a full-time assistant spot and then maybe add a volunteer on top of that,” Mainieri said.
Changing the rules, even with the new autonomy, isn’t easy.
Anything SEC coaches propose must be ratified by athletic directors and then would need to be voted on by the five power leagues.
SEC coaches discussed expanding video replay in college baseball, specifically in conference games, Mainieri said.
With the intensified television coverage, replay is more of a possibility than ever before. Replay in college baseball is used on a limited basis only at the College World Series.
“If every single conference game is televised to some degree then there’s access to replay so we’re putting forth a proposal (on replay),” Mainieri said. “Why not use it for other calls? Whether or not a ball left the ball park.”
LSU baseball 2015 season ticket renewals are now available for season-ticket holders.
Current season-ticket holders can log on to their online account at www.LSUtix.net to renew their season tickets. The deadline to renew season tickets is Friday, Oct. 31.
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