There’s only a week left before first pitch, so it’s time to catchup on all the preseason happenings with LSU Baseball before their 3 pack series with ULM, Army, and Air Force next weekend
Best to start off where the preseason started, with Coach Mainieri’s big press conference on the first day of practice. You can watch it HERE (sorry, embedding isnt working), I’ve summarized some key points below.
-Construction Update: They’re building a plaza for a Skip Bertman statue. The batting cage building in right field is getting an expansion with a dedicated weight room and a locker room for former players.
-Mainieri doesn’t want the team talking about Omaha during the season
-With the #1 recruiting class, Josh Smith and Eric Walker returning from a missed year due to injuries, and Zach Hess, Zach Watson, and Antoine Duplantis passing on MLB for another year at LSU, Mainieri is very excited about this roster’s potential.
-Zach Hess will start on Friday night and Mainieri was insistent that he’s not going back to the bullpen. Walker on Sunday. Wasnt sure about Saturday at this point but Landon Marceaux is the favorite, with Jayden Hill, Chase Costello, Cole Henry working in practice to take that spot. Expects that rotation to not be set in stone until conference play.
-LSU dealt with 9 pitchers being injured in fall ball and shut down practice for some of the rest of the staff out of caution. Nick Storrz (surgery, torn lat) might be back in April, Easton McMurray and AJ Labas are both questionable. Ma’Khail Hilliard, last year’s stellar freshman arm, is still having soreness issues in practice. (More on all this below)
-Saul Garza, new catcher out of JUCO, suffered a torn meniscus with extended damage in the fall. He is running and hitting in practice, but will only DH until March. Mainieri was really excited about Garza’s power potential at the plate. Brock Mathis will start at catcher and likely catch every game for the first couple of weeks due to depth issues.
-Ole Miss head coach and former Tiger Mike Bianco’s son Drew is with LSU this year. Mainieri said Mike asked him for advice about having his own son on his team. Mainieri, with his own experience playing for his Hall of Fame father in junior college, recommended against it. Mainieri thinks Drew could be a catcher at the next level, but will play infield for now.
-Daniel Cabrera had a great summer with the US National Team, and should have a lot more protection around him in the lineup this season. Cabrera, Watson, and Duplantis is your outfield lineup, with frosh Giovanni DiGiacomo as a talented first sub.
-Josh Smith is your starting SS, and should have a great year now that he’s over his back issues. Brandt Broussard improved in summer ball and will start at 2B, with Hal Hughes at 3rd. Hughes is the best defensive option at 3rd and Mainieri hopes his bat will come along as the weather warms up.
-1B completely up in the air at this point. Bianco, Cade Beloso, CJ Willis, and Gavin Dugas are fighting it out for the spot. Bianco and Dugas will compete for spots at 2B and 3B as well.
-Mainieri is really looking forward to Duplantis passing Eddy Furniss’ SEC career hits record, wants to start him at leadoff this season.
-Todd Peterson will be in the bullpen this season, and is the likely go-to closer. Mainieri reflected on the amazing moment he had at the plate in Hoover last year and said it really turned around Peterson’s drive and passion for the game. Don’t expect Peterson to pick up a bat again until a Senior Day down the line.
-Mainieri is worried about keeping guys healthy before the season starts, but the team needs to get more practice in after fall ball had to be cut short.
-With Easton McMurray injured, LSU wont have a lefty on the pitching staff. Mainieri’s not happy about it, but it’s just the way the roster worked out this year and Dunn is confident they can work around it.
-LINEUP: Duplaintis, Smith, DH Garza, Cabrerra, Watson, (whoever’s playing 1B), Mathis, Hughes, Broussard
-Marceaux comes in with 4 solid pitches already in his arsenal, which is why he’s the favorite to get the Saturday job
After a week of practice, Mainieri announced that AJ Labas would have to get shoulder surgery and would be out for the year. The open roster spot gave him the opportunity to bring “Professional Hitter” Chris Reid back onto the roster after having to cut him last fall. Reid stayed enrolled at LSU and stayed in shape dominating UREC and coaching youth baseball.
Gota give a shoutout to my roommates @G_Ham33 and @ithomas14 for grinding with me on the UREC courts throughout my off-time!!! https://t.co/gho3kEyGk6— Chris Reid (@chrisreid1212) February 1, 2019
In an interview at practice on Thursday, Mainieri revealed that Hess had a minor groin injury, but had recovered and was fine in practice this week. Hilliard is also doing well and “knocking the rust off” in two outings so far this preseason. Bianco seems to be more the favorite for the 1B job. Mainieri is also favoring Dugas as a backup at 2B. Thanks to the kids at Tiger TV for recording the whole session with the media. There was a nice long conversation about dual-sport signee Mo Hampton and how the recruiting process worked for him.
Alex Box has a brand new full video board in left field now, and LSU’s hitters are already having some target practice.
Saul Garza just damaged the scoreboard taking BP.— James Moran (@SmartestMoran) February 7, 2019
It’s not Skip ______n Field until further notice pic.twitter.com/dl8dm9rfJh
The TV schedule for the year was released and yet again every single game of LSU’s season will be on a TV or digital platform of some kind. Highlights of the TV selections include the entire home series against Florida airing on real TV and the series at Texas being exclusive to Longhorn Network. In a slight change, LSU’s 2 in-state road games this season, at Northwestern and at Southern, will be carried on ESPN’s pay service ESPN+. Cox Sports, once the home of LSU baseball, has now shrunk to only covering a single game this season, the Wally Pontiff Jr Classic in Metairie against USL.