Three days before his team’s 2014 season opener, coach Paul Mainieri’s opening-day lineup is beginning to take shape.
LSU, ranked as high as No. 2 and low as No. 12 in preseason polls, will begin the season at 7 p.m. Friday against UNO at Alex Box Stadium with a host of new starters in the order.
Mainieri said Tuesday that Chris Chinea will start at catcher and Tyler Moore at first base, a pair of players who started just 30 combined games in 2013.
As expected, Conner Hale, a junior college transfer, will start at second base, and Jared Foster, a junior, will start in right field and bat cleanup behind shortstop Alex Bregman.
Mainieri still isn’t sure who will start in center field.
Regular center fielder Andrew Stevenson has been suffering from a groin strain and hasn’t practiced in the outfield in more than a week. If Stevenson doesn’t start, Sean McMullen, expected to be LSU’s designated hitter, would likely play center. Kade Scivicque would DH.
Stevenson is expected to return to full strength soon.
Moore is set to catch Saturday in LSU’s game against UNO at Zephyr Field. Scivicque will catch Sunday against Grambling at Alex Box. Moore, Chinea, and Scivicque are battling for the starting spots at catcher and first base.
Tigers pegged to win West
League coaches picked LSU the Southeastern Conference Western Division, and the Tigers finish tied with Mississippi State by grabbing the second-most votes to claim the overall championship.
LSU, which has won the West in in back-to-back years, edged Mississippi State in the West predicted order of finish with 84 votes to the Bulldogs’ 83. The Tigers received one fewer first-place vote than the Bulldogs. The two teams meet in Baton Rouge April 4-6.
Four coaches voted LSU to win the SEC championship, the same as Mississippi State.
South Carolina got five votes in the overall championship voting, while Vanderbilt received one. The Gamecocks were picked to win the SEC East with 86 votes, four more than Vanderbilt.
Points were compiled on a 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for each division. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team. Each coach also voted for one team as an overall conference champion.
HOF for Mainieri’s father
Mainieri’s father, Demie Mainieri, will be inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, the organization announced Monday.
“For the 230 voters across the country to remember my dad’s career, it really warms my heart,” Paul Mainieri said Tuesday.
Demie Mainieri will be inducted June 28 in Lubbock, Texas.
Demie Mainieri was the first junior college coach to win at least 1,000 games. He finished his career with 1,012 wins in 30 seasons at Miami-Dade North Community College.
Mainieri’s 1964 team won the NJCAA national championship. He had three teams finish second and another finished third.
Paul and Demie Mainieri became the first father-son duo to be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in January.
Demie Mainieri, 85, still lives in South Florida. Paul Mainieri expects his father to visit in mid-April and stay through the end of the baseball season.
“This is a nice thing for him and my family,” Paul Mainieri said. “It’s the crowning achievement to cap off his career.”