Last Modified: Thursday, February 21, 2013 10:58 AM
It’s way early, and baseball teams are notorious works in progress. But maybe the key piece of the puzzle came early for LSU this season.
It was just a little more than a week before the season began when head coach Paul Mainieri changed his mind and inserted center fielder Chris Sciambra into the leadoff role instead of freshman Mark Laird, whose speed has been compared to former Tiger outfielder Jared Mitchell, who moonlighted as a wide receiver.
Mainly, Mainieri didn’t want the pressure of setting the table, preferably going deep into counts as per the job description, on a freshman.
But Sciambra had to be a question mark, too. The sophomore was coming back from a scary injury that forced him to miss the second half of last season. He fractured a vertebrae in his neck after an awkward collision with the center-field wall at Auburn.
Suffice it to say Sciambra seems little worse for the wear.
He announced his comeback with authority, going 4-for-4 in LSU’s season opening win against Maryland last week, and after four games leads the unbeaten Tigers with a .583 average. He’s also drawn five walks, reaching base in 12 of his 17 appearances.
“It’s just a joy to see him out there,” Mainieri said. “What he came back from, it’s almost a miracle.”
Sciambra and the Tigers will get an early start on a weekend series today with a 6:30 p.m. game against Brigham Young.
LSU will play Southeastern Louisiana at 7 p.m. Friday, then play BYU again at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Southeastern and BYU will play each other at 1 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
BYU is 2-2 after splitting two games with Northern Colorado, beating Northern Illinois and losing to Texas Tech.
Tonight’s opener could be a classic pitchers’ duel as the Tigers will send ace Aaron Nola, who struck out nine in six scoreless innings against Maryland, against BYU’s Desmond Poulson. Poulson struck out 10 and allowed four hits in a complete-game shutout of Northern Colorado last week.
Ryan Eades, who got a no decision despite 6 1/3 scoreless inning in his first start, will pitch Friday for against SLU. Brent Bonvillain (0-0, 2.25 ERA) will pitch against BYU in Saturday’s game.
LSU is coming off an 8-1 victory over Lamar on Tuesday night which featured second baseman JaCoby Jones’ second home run of the season.
Jones is LSU’s second-leading hitter at .444, followed by Raph Rhymes at .357.
The Tigers are batting .297 while the dominant early pitching brings in a team ERA of 0.75 with 34 strikeouts in 36 innings and five walks.