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Aaron Palmer (12) runs for third base during the baseball game between UNO Privateers and LSU Tigers at Maestri Field at Privateer Park in New Orleans, Tuesday February 21, 2017.

Make sure to purchase a game-day program when you walk into Maestri Field for UNO baseball games this spring.

There will be plenty of new faces in the Privateers lineup.

Five starters (first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, right fielder and designated hitter) are gone from last year's team that finished 30-28-1 overall and 16-14 in Southland Conference play.

"The biggest thing is that we have so many new faces," said UNO coach Blake Dean. "We are replacing a lot of key guys. We are going to be young. We are giving a lot of new people some experience, and we are just trying to see how these guys will perform against talent outside of playing against each other."

That lack of experience is a big reason the Privateers were picked to finish a middle-of-the-pack seventh in the 13-team Southland's preseason poll.

UNO hosts the Illinois-Chicago in Friday's season opener in the Andre Dawson Classic. UIC played in a regional in last year's NCAA tournament and is the first opponent on a schedule that Dean says is UNO's toughest since he took over in 2016.

The Privateers' schedule also includes dates with Ball State, Iowa, Virginia Tech and LSU, plus three games each against Texas and Tulane.

"Those are some tough foes, so we may have a couple bumps here and there, but we'll see what these guys are made of," Dean said. "We'll see if they are tough and can figure it out."

The pitching staff, led by left-handed junior Bryan Warzek, is the strength of this year's team. Warzek, who will be the Friday night starter in conference play, went 8-3 with a 2.12 ERA as a sophomore. Warzek was also named to the all-conference preseason first team.

"We are expecting him to have a great year and build off what he did last year," Dean said. "It's hard to top what he did last year. We just need him to go out Friday night and do his thing."

Warzeg is one of three Privateers to make the all-conference pre-season team. Catcher John Cable and outfielder Orynn Veillon were also both chosen for the team.

Unfortunately for Cable, he could miss most of the season after suffering a hamstring injury during the summer.

"That really hurts our lineup, because we were counting on him," Dean said.

Veillon is also dealing with injuries and could miss time as well.

UNO will miss having his bat in the lineup, especially after he belted 15 home runs last season.

Tristan Clarke, who hit 10 home runs last season, transferred to Tennessee Wesleyan after having academic issues.

"We won't produce the power numbers we did last year, I can guarantee you that," Dean said. "But hopefully we can score enough runs and hold guys enough to win some games."

Darren Willis, a Rummel graduate, will start at shortstop, looking to help fill the giant shoes left behind with the departure of middle infielders Aaron Palmer and Samuel Capielano.

UNO's outfield isn't quite as inexperienced as the infield.

Jay Robinson and Jared McKay give the team some experience in the outfield.

Dean has now compiled a 30-30 mark in conference play in two seasons.

His ultimate goal, though, is to win it all.

"We are getting into my third year and finally catching up on the recruiting curve," Dean said. "Hopefully we can continue to grow this thing. Our next goal obviously is to win the conference and make it to the regional."


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.

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