With the exception of one, all college baseball teams end their seasons in disappointment.
Sometimes it’s the welcomed end of a frustrating season. Other times it’s the unexpected loss that derails a championship train. Whether the former or the latter, it’s an ending teams must rue over for eight months before a new first pitch is thrown.
For the LSU baseball team, its two-and-out performance in Omaha eight months ago stung. And coach Paul Mainieri knows the sting won’t leave anytime soon.
Just don’t expect him to bring it up.
“Anytime the season ends and you’re not holding the trophy up, it’s a disappointment,” Mainieri said. “You get yourself back to that position again and you do something about it. But we’re so far away from that position now that it’s not something we think about.”
So when junior righty Aaron Nola takes the mound against UNO tonight at 7 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium, it starts a march to get the Tigers back in that same position – Omaha.
It’s the second-straight opening night start for Nola, who struck out nine and scattered two hits through six and two-thirds innings in last year’s season-opening 1-0 victory against Maryland.
“It hasn’t kicked in yet, but I’ll probably start getting some butterflies here soon,” Nola said. “These are the kinds of things you remember, starting the season off with hopefully a victory.”
Mainieri said Nola will pitch a maximum of six innings before the eighth-year coach inserts a slew of arms young and old — all a part of Mainieri’s weekend plan to evaluate his entire pitching staff.
Junior southpaw Kyle Bouman gets the ball Saturday when the Tigers travel to Zephyr Field to face UNO, while freshman Jared Poche will start Sunday in Alex Box Stadium against Grambling.
There won’t just be evaluation on the mound, though. To test his three catchers vying for a starting role, Mainieri will start sophomore Chris Chinea behind the plate tonight and junior Tyler Moore at first base before Moore moves behind the plate Saturday.
Junior Kade Scivicque will start at designated hitter tonight and could also see action behind the plate during the weekend.
“You’d like to have that one guy who’s the leader of the team, that’s the super player like we’ve had for the last six years,” Mainieri said. “But after about three weeks with these guys, I think they’re all about even. They’re all pretty good ballplayers, I’m kind of glad we have all three guys now.”
As Mainieri sorts out his still-evolving team from the home dugout, the visitors dugout will hold some familiar faces. Mainieri’s college coach, Ron Maestri, is back at the helm of UNO after a 28-year absence from the game, and Mainieri’s former player Blake Dean is Maestri’s assistant.
Add to that a UNO alumni gathering scheduled for Saturday when many of Mainieri’s college teammates will be in attendance, and all the weekend festivities will be surreal, Mainieri said.
Until the first pitch is thrown, that is.
“As soon as the introductions are over, the tunnel vision will kick in,” Mainieri said. “All I’m going to care about is what our players do and what we have to do to win the game.”