Something is eerily similar about the left side of the Tigers’ infield in 2013 compared to how it looked in 2012.
On one hand, two new faces on the team, junior third baseman Christian Ibarra and freshman shortstop Alex Bregman, will be manning positions formerly held by two fan favorites.
Ibarra and Bregman might remind spectators in Alex Box Stadium of their predecessors, though.
“Ibarra’s still short, so it still looks like [former Tigers third baseman Tyler] Hanover’s still over there at third base,” said senior first baseman Mason Katz. “And [Bregman] seems like he’s been playing college baseball. He’s ready. He’s far ahead of any freshman I’ve ever seen come in here.”
Ibarra will have some big shoes to fill, because Hanover was a household name for LSU baseball fans.
Hanover started 236 games as an infielder for the Tigers over his four-year career, finishing No. 10 on the Tigers’ all-time hit list.
He was drafted in the 33rd round by the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 MLB Draft.
Bregman will take former LSU shortstop Austin Nola’s spot.
Nola played four seasons as the Tigers’ shortstop, making 219 starts. As a senior, he batted .299 and was renowned for his defensive prowess.
Nola was drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins.
Katz poured on the praise for his new teammates.
“[Bregman] doesn’t look like a normal freshman,” Katz said. “He’s got the confidence and he’s got the talent, and he’s expected to be a force in our lineup.”
Bregman had an injury-riddled season as a senior at Albuquerque Academy, but he hit .678 as a junior, including a New Mexico high school season-record 19 home runs.
Ibarra’s road to Baton Rouge was slightly different.
The new Tigers third baseman transferred from Rio Hondo College in Whittier, Calif., where he hit for a .396 average and a .469 on-base percentage as a sophomore.
He has a quirky approach at the plate, and it has proven effective.
“When you see him hit, he’s got this weird Spanish wiggle and then he’s got this awkward leg kick, but he just rakes,” Katz said. “He’s a great player, and he works hard, too. He’s going to hold his own over there.”
It will be a new experience in every sense for Ibarra. Along with a new atmosphere, Ibarra will now face the high-caliber pitching of the Southeastern Conference.
“He hit well in the fall against SEC pitchers,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “I don’t expect him to have major trouble adjusting. He played against good competition in California junior colleges.”
Ibarra said he’s looking forward to playing in Alex Box.
“I’ve never experienced this many people [watching] in live competition,” Ibarra said. “But everybody here is really nice. Everyone is cooperative and we all work together.”