There are only two words to describe LSU sophomore shortstop Alex Bregman’s intentions before the squad heads to Vanderbilt to begin Southeastern Conference play this weekend: achieve perfection.
The 2014 LSU baseball team has been anything but perfect through the first 16 games, but the team has its chance to clean up any straggling issues this week, with both Nicholls State and Southern University rolling in to Baton Rouge today and Wednesday.
Bregman said the current LSU roster has enough talent to compete with any squad in the country when it plays up to its potential.
“I think we need to polish up everything, honestly,” Bregman said. “We have a lot of improving to do on the base paths, at the plate, defensively and on the mound. We could just fine-tune everything and just compete. When we compete, we play well, and if we play well, then we can win whenever we go out there.”
For the second straight season, Nicholls State will be one of LSU’s final nonconference opponents before SEC play begins.
Last year, LSU played the Colonels twice. The first contest was one of then-sophomore southpaw Cody Glenn’s final chances to acquire a weekend spot. He did so after tossing seven shutout innings in a 2-0 victory. The Tigers also downed Nicholls State 9-3 one week later to sweep the season series.
Heading into today’s contest, LSU coach Paul Mainieri has already solidified his weekend rotation for the Vanderbilt series — juniors Aaron Nola and Kyle Bouman will pitch Friday and Saturday, respectively, and freshman Jared Poche’ will toss Sunday’s contest.
Today’s matchup against the Colonels will instead be a chance for the Tigers’ pitchers to log key innings and stay fresh heading into the weekend.
“[Nicholls State has] a fine club,” Mainieri said. “Nicholls State will be ready to play, there’s no question about it. Brady Domangue will get the ball, and hopefully he can give us five good innings, and then we can use our bullpen to sharpen up those guys for the weekend. We’re going to play to win. You don’t develop as a team unless you’re out there and playing well.”
It will be Domangue’s second start of his LSU career — the junior college transfer tossed three innings against Sacred Heart on March 5, surrendering one run on three hits.
A number of reserves will likely get playing time during both midweek contests because of injuries and inconsistencies throughout the starting lineup.
Mainieri said he is still working out the batting order against both right- and left-handed pitchers. Both freshman Kramer Robertson and junior Conner Hale have shared time in the Tigers’ lineup at second base, while Hale and junior Tyler Moore have split games at first base.
Last season, Moore hit for a .291 batting average against right-handed pitchers. He only hit .222 against southpaws.
Freshman infielder Danny Zardon will get work at third base both today and Wednesday after senior third baseman Christian Ibarra tweaked his hamstring Saturday against Purdue.
“As he was running out a double play, he hit into, it kind of grabbed him a little bit,” Mainieri said. “We don’t think it’s as serious as we feared [Saturday night]. He wasn’t as sore [Sunday] as he was on Saturday, which is a good sign. We’ll hold him out for these midweek games, and hopefully he’ll be ready to go by Friday.”