BATON ROUGE, La., Sporting Alert – LSU will open its 2016 baseball fixtures with a three-game series against Cincinnati in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field on Friday.
The No. 5 ranked Tigers (No. 5 USA Today; No. 7 Collegiate Baseball), who have ambitions of winning the national title this season, will open with game 1 of the series at 8 p.m. ET on Friday.
Game 2 in the series will get underway at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, with the first pitch for game 3 scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday.
All three games will be streamed live online on SEC Network+, accessible at www.SECNetwork.com and the WatchESPN app, with live audio and stats of the games may be available at www.LSUsports.net/livestats.
LSU enters the 2016 season with 17 lettermen on the roster from the 2015 term, which is complemented by an additional 16 newcomers, including 10 position players and five pitchers.
The current roster, according to a program release, includes five position players with starting experience from 2015, as well as 11 pitchers who recorded innings last season.
The Tigers had to replace eight of nine starters from last campaign’s batting order, but head coach Paul Mainieri is confident his team has enough quality to suit up a strong offense.
“So much publicity has been given to the fact that we lost eight of our nine starting players from our lineup going into this year,” said Mainieri.
“So everybody has this assumption that we are going to be so freshman-oriented, and that’s really not going to be the case.
“I think on opening day we’ll probably have two freshmen in our lineup. But the rest of the lineup is going to be filled with one junior college transfer, and then six returning players.”
Junior Jared Poche’, a 2016 preseason All-American, will be the starting pitcher against the Bearcats in game 1 on Friday night.
Poche’ enjoyed a very productive term last year and Mainieri is backing the left-hander to have another fruitful campaign, given the work he’s put in to prepare for the season.
“Jared’s velocity has jumped up a bit; he’s been 89 to 90, touching 91 once in a while,” Mainieri said.
“At the end of the fall, he was throwing 91 to 93 miles an hour. Now, if he can maintain that, it will make him a lot better. His command is continuing to improve because of experience.
“And I’ll tell you this, (LSU pitching coach) Alan Dunn has worked with him on cutting his fastball. It gives it slider action. He’s always had that big curveball. Now in hitter’s counts, he doesn’t have to lay his fastball in there.
“He can get break action on it, without giving up too much velocity or command. And I think that’s going to help him as well. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Jared. He’s like the ‘ultimate warrior’ out there.”
Cincinnati will start with junior right-hander Andrew Zellner in game 1 on Friday, but the Bearcats are yet to name their starting pitchers for Saturday and Sunday.
Meanwhile, Sophomore right-hander Alex Lange, last season’s National Freshman Pitcher of the Year, will be on the mound for LSU on Saturday, with senior left-handed transfer John Valek III doing duties on Sunday.
Cincinnati Bearcats (0-0) at #5 LSU Fighting Tigers (0-0)
Friday, Feb. 19 – 8 p.m. ET
Saturday, Feb. 20 – 3 p.m. ET
Sunday, Feb. 21 – 1 p.m. ET