The Tom Riginos-era starts today when the Winthrop Eagles baseball team opens the 2011 season at San Diego State.
Riginos was hired Aug. 4, 2010, to replace Joe Hudak. He came to Winthrop from Clemson, where he was the team's hitting coach and recruiter.
Riginos first game for the Eagles will be against a San Diego State team led by MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
"It will be fun to see how Gwynn handles BP," Riginos said. "I will learn what I can from him. He's one of the greatest hitters of all time."
The Eagles' first-year coach was anxious to see his team in action. The squad went through a final tune up Wednesday afternoon at The Winthrop Ballpark. Infielders took ground balls. Outfielders worked on catches against the right field wall. Pitchers hit, hitters hit.
Riginos spelled out Thursday's travel itinerary that included a 4:30 a.m. arrival at the stadium for an early morning flight. The team was scheduled to work out Thursday night at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
The Eagles play the Aztecs at 4 p.m. today and Sunday afternoon. They face San Diego, the West Coast Conference preseason favorite, on Saturday.
"I want three wins on this trip," Riginos said. "I am anxious to see the kids compete; let them go out and do their thing on the field. I want them to be relaxed, but focused."
The Eagles' starting rotation is set for the weekend with Tyler Mizenko, Robert Lake and Matteo D'Angelo. Lake and D'Angelo are seniors. They have been starting pitchers the last two years. Mizenko, a junior, is being converted to a starter after serving as the team's closer his first two seasons.
Riginos said several times leading up to today that Mizenko is a good closer but it doesn't make sense to have him close if the team can't get in a position to hold a late-inning lead.
"Mizenko has a chance to be a power pitcher. He's a front line guy; a very good Friday starter," Riginos said.
All three starters will be on strict pitch counts. Lake will be allowed to throw 75-80 pitches. Mizenko missed some time with the flu and is a bit behind. D'Angelo has battled some shoulder tendonitis.
The rest of the pitching staff's roles have yet to be defined. That's by design. Riginos and new pitching coach Clint Chrysler will make those assignments as the first 20 games unfold.
On the offensive side, the NCAA has mandated the use of a new bat this season. Winthrop power-hitting catcher Eddie Rohan said he likes the bats although the ball doesn't seem to carry as well off the sweet spot.
Mike McGuire, the lone returning coach, works with the Eagles hitters. He said the new bats will put a premium on guys that can hit line drives.
"Balls that were home runs or doubles last year might be outs this year," he said.
"A guy like Rohan used to hit four or five home runs a turn in BP. Now he might he four in a whole session."