NMSU Baseball Opens Season Friday Against New Orleans

Written by: Teddy Feinberg/Sun-News Reporter

Also See: bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Ward Interview :: 02/20/08

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - For New Mexico State baseball coach Rocky Ward, opening day never gets old.

"It's always great," Ward said. "Especially this year. Guys are antsy to get out there and play ball."

The wait is over, as the Aggies will take Presley Askew Field Friday against The University of New Orleans. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.

The college baseball season was pushed back three weeks this year in order to accommodate teams playing in the northeast sector of the United States who would have been competing in sub-freezing temperatures.

The result is a condensed schedule, which will see clubs play the same amount of regular-season games in a shorter period of time. Ward said that will cause him to monitor his players closely as the season unfolds.

"We have scrimmaged a lot," Ward said of his team's schedule leading up to today. "We're definitely prepared to get out there and face some live competition."

NMSU experienced some devastating injuries to its pitching staff last year and the high volume of games will cause some concern early on. Hurlers Sebastien Vendette, Jason Conner and Tyler Sturdevant will all be on the opening-day roster, with Vendette getting the nod to start the opener and Conner to start
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Sunday's 1 p.m. contest. Sturdevant will come out of the bullpen as one of the team's primary relievers. Another could be 6-foot-5 power righty Jeremy Joustra, who had an impressive offseason with the team.

Starting the middle game of the series will be junior right-hander Heath Goin.

"With those three pitching at a high level, we should be much improved," Ward said. "All three have thrown during our scrimmages and their combined ERA was right at 3."

NMSU finished with a 22-34 record last season, as the team rounded out the year on a sour note, dropping nine of its last 10 contests. The result was a last-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference.

Today's game can be heard on KSNM AM 570.

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Catcher Joe Leghorn returns from a thumb injury he suffered last season. Leghorn hit .386 last year with 24 RBIs.

Also leading the Aggies on offense will be third baseman Marcus Quade and centerfielder Joe Scaperotta. Quade hit .339 last year with eight homers and 59 RBIs. His season was highlighted by a 33-game hitting streak.

Scaperotta led the Aggies last year with a .341 batting average to go along with 10 homers and 59 RBIs. He also led the team in doubles with 19.

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New Orleans is the defending Sun Belt Conference champions with a 38-26 record, 16-14 in the SBC.

The Privateers are led by versatile junior Johnny Giavotella. Listed as an infielder/outifleder, Giavotella batted .385 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs in 2007.

Teddy Feinberg can be reached at tfeinberg@lcsun-news.com