LSU baseball opens season tonight

BATON ROUGE — Eighth-ranked LSU opens the 2012 season at 7 p.m. today when the Tigers host Air Force in Alex Box Stadium.

The Tigers will meet Alcorn State at 6:30 p.m. Saturday before concluding the weekend on Sunday with a 1 p.m. matchup with Air Force.

In addition to the LSU games, Alcorn State faced Air Force in Alex Box Stadium at 11 a.m. today and again at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Admission is free to the Air Force-Alcorn State games.

The LSU games will be carried by the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network. The Baton Rouge affiliate is WDGL 98.1 FM. Live video and audio of the games may be accessed in the Geaux Zone at

The Tigers open the 2011 season ranked No. 8 by Baseball America, No. 12 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 14 by USA Today/ESPN.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri, entering his sixth season at the program’s helm, expressed great optimism about the new season.

“I do think we have a good chance of having an excellent team,” Mainieri, who served as the Air Force head coach from 1989-94, said in a university news release. “This is an exciting time, and we’re really excited about this season. A lot has already been mentioned about our pitching staff; certainly our pitching staff is going to have to lead the way for us this year, and I think it will. At the plate, we have a gritty, determined group of players that will compete hard on every pitch.”

Mainieri said preseason All-American right-hander Kevin Gausman, a sophomore from Centennial, Colo., will start tonight’s game on the mound for LSU. Sophomore right-hander Ryan Eades will be the Tigers’ starter on Saturday, and sophomore right-hander Kurt McCune is LSU’s starter on Sunday.

McCune was a 2011 Freshman All-American selection, Gausman played for the USA Collegiate National Team in July, and Eades was voted the Cape Cod Pitcher of the Year last summer.

LSU senior shortstop Austin Nola and senior infielder Tyler Hanover are three-year starters that helped lead the Tigers to the 2009 College World Series title.

Other Tigers returning that made significant contributions last season include junior All-Southeastern Conference outfielder Mason Katz, junior outfielder/designated hitter Ralph Rhymes, senior utility player and former Morgan City High School standout Grant Dossier, junior outfielder Alex Edward, sophomore outfielder/infielder Jacob Jones, a 2011 Freshman All-American, and sophomore catcher Ty Ross, a 2011 Freshman All-SEC selection.

The Air Force Falcons are coached by Mike Kazlausky, who played for three seasons under Mainieri (1989-91) at Air Force. He then served the United States as a C-17 transport pilot for 20 years, logging more than 3,000 flight hours while flying combat missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Mike is a legitimate United States hero, and now he has been made the baseball coach at his alma mater,” Mainieri said. “I love him dearly, and he is one of the special people in my life. Those kids in the Air Force Academy are going into a life of service where they will be the custodians for our way of life. They make a lot of sacrifices for all of us.”

Air Force posted a 19-36 overall mark in 2011 and were 4-20 in Mountain West Conference play.

Among Air Force’s top returning players are catcher/outfielder Garrett Custons (.330, 6 HR, 23 RBI in 2011) and junior outfielder Alex Bast (.318, 3 HR, 30 RBI in 2011).

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