LSU will face-off against Western Michigan on opening day at Alex Box Stadium on Friday, 3:00 p.m.
LSU has won 21 consecutive season-opening games dating back to 2002. The Tigers’ last loss in a season opener occurred on Feb. 10, 2001, when LSU dropped a 9-8 decision to Kansas State in the original Alex Box Stadium.
It was no surprise that All-American Paul Skenes was named the starter on Friday. However, it did surprise some people that LHP RIley Cooper and true freshman RHP Chase Shores were announced as the Saturday and Sunday starters by LSU head coach Jay Johnson. A lot of people thought that Thatcher Hurd was going to get the nod, but Johnson wants to make sure he is as healthy as possible before he returns to the mound.
The outfield, second base and catcher positions are still to be determined by Johnson. Johnson, however, did say that everyone will get a chance to play this weekend.
“We’re taking one game at a time, trying to do things in the context of winning that day,” Johnson said. “To win Division I baseball games, you have to do things right. The goal is to put our players in positions to have success, and we’ll figure out what our best team looks like as we move forward.”
All of the games this weekend will be broadcast on SEC Network+.
Western Michigan Preview
Western Michigan finished 18-36 overall with a 15-24 conference record, finishing eighth in the Mid-American Conference. The Broncos are facing the #1 ranked team for the first time in over 20 years, when the Broncos went up against Notre Dame on May 2, 2001. Western Michigan upset the Fighting Irish in South Bend, 7-6. The head coach of Notre Dame at the time was former LSU head coach Paul Manieri.
This is the first time ever that LSU and Western Michigan face-off. However, the Tigers do have some experience playing against some of the foes in the Broncos’ conference.
LSU is 19-7 all-time against teams from the MAC. The Tigers are 2-1 vs. Ball State, 2-0 vs. Central Michigan, 0-1 vs. Kent State, 12-5 vs. Northern Illinois and 3-0 vs. Ohio.
After Western Michigan posted an abysmal 8.77 ERA and a batting average against of .339, the Broncos would like to improve those numbers with a fully healthy pitching staff this year.
RHP Brady Miller, who missed all of last year due to injury, is reportedly its best athlete and will be the Broncos’ starter on Friday. LHP Dane Armbruster was a weekend starter for Western Michigan last year and led his team in strikeouts with 73. He will be the starter on Saturday. RHP Ethan Houghtaling will be the Sunday starter. Houghtaling went 1-3 last year as a freshman, recording a 10.68 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched.
One of Western Michigan’s strengths is hitting the baseball. Last year, the Broncos hit 57 home runs as a team last year, their most in almost 15 years. The Broncos’ best hitters are OF Dylan Nevar, 1B Cade Sullivan, 3B Gavin Doyle and SS Jimmy Allen.
Nevar was the MAC Freshman of the year, recording a .325 batting average, 49 RBIs and 11 home runs, which led the team. He also led his team in doubles and slugging percentage, posting 20 doubles and a slugging percentage of .614.
A second-team all-conference performer, Sullivan posted a batting average of .315, 10 home runs and 52 RBIs, which led the team. He also recorded 16 doubles.
Doyle is the team’s leading returner in batting average, where he posted an average of .343. Doyle recorded 60 hits, 18 doubles, three home runs and 45 RBIs. Doyle is very patient at the plate. Because of his patience, he was able to walk (37) nearly as often as he struck out (41).
Allen enters today’s game with a 20-game hitting streak. Allen recorded 11 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 31 RBIs.
Projected Starting Lineup
- 1B Tre Morgan
- CF Dylan Crews
- LF Josh Pearson
- 3B Tommy White
- DH Jared Jones
- RF Paxton Kling
- 2B Ben Nippolt
- SS Jordan THompson
- C Brady Neal
Confirmed Pitching Matchups
LSU – Jr. RH Paul Skenes (at Air Force in 2022: 10-3, 2.73 ERA, 85.2 IP, 30 BB, 96 SO)
WMU – Jr. RH Brady Miller (redshirted in 2022 due to injury)
LSU – Jr. LH Riley Cooper (4-3, 4.20 ERA, 40.2 IP, 8 BB, 35 SO in 2022)
WMU – Sr. LH Dane Armbrustmacher (6-1, 6.47 ERA, 65.1 IP, 29 BB, 73 SO in 2022)
LSU – Fr. RH Chase Shores (will make collegiate debut Sunday)
WMU – So. RH Ethan Houghtaling (1-3, 10.68 ERA, 30.1 IP, 22 BB, 20 SO in 2022)