The Road to Omaha doesn’t begin in the spring; coaches already are driving their players toward the College World Series. It’s the rise-n-grind that players tweet about; it’s the workout pictures that are shared on social media. It’s the day-in, day-out work that coaches and players hope will separate their team in June. Before the first pitch in February, NCAA.com is highlighting teams that may reach the Mecca of college baseball: Omaha.
• 2014: 46-16-1 (17-11-1 SEC)
• Head coach: Paul Mainieri (ninth year)
Tigers’ team website
1. What can fans expect from this squad in 2015? At LSU, we have a veteran core of position players returning from last season’s NCAA No. 8 national seed; in fact, five position players were named to the Cape Cod League All-Star teams this past summer. We also feature the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class that contains several outstanding young arms. Question marks for our club would include inexperience in the starting rotation and in the closer role.
2. What is the one thing that this year’s team does best? We have excellent all-round athletes who can produce runs with both speed and power, and we have an outstanding defensive club. Our pitching staff is young, but we have great power arm potential in Alex Lange, Jake Godfrey, and Jake Latz. What really stood out was how well they developed in the fall. They pounded the zone, commanded all three pitches, and showed great mound presence. We are extremely pleased with their development thus far.
3. Bottom of the ninth, tied game, two outs, winning run on second … which player does this team want to step up to the plate? Where Alex Bregman goes, we go. He is the hardest working player we’ve ever been around. He loves the game and is a baseball rat. His defense is spectacular and can make all the plays, and he is our quarterback on the field. Offensively, he is a gap to gap hitter and is at his best when he is driving balls into the opposite field gaps. We look for him to hit a few more home runs with these balls and expect him, along with Conner Hale, to drive in a ton of runs.
4. If this team had one game to win, which pitcher would get the ball? Sophomore left-hander Jared Poche’ is a competitor who really slows the game down. He is mid to upper 80s, occasionally touching some 90s. He has a true strikeout pitch in his breaking ball and “plus” command of his change-up that fades away from right-handed hitters.
5. Who are we most likely to see make a “SportsCenter Top 10” play on this squad? Junior centerfielder Andrew Stevenson is one of the best athletes in the country. Defensively, he is as good as we have ever had in center field. He takes great routes and can make the game-saving play. He produced at a high level last year offensively, and we expect him to be our catalyst at the top of the order.
6. What does Omaha mean to this team? Everything we do from August until June is tailored toward achieving our ultimate objective — advancing to the College World Series. We feel it’s our obligation to continue the remarkable LSU Baseball tradition by making our 17th trip to Omaha.
— LSU Baseball Director of Operations Nolan Cain
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— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) January 20, 2015