On Monday, we examined the LSU pitching staff and yesterday we took a look at the Tigers' corner infielders and catchers. Today we'll preview LSU's middle infielders, where the Tigers have a new second baseman but still have wunderkind Alex Bregman holding down shortstop.
What could Bregman possibly have in store for his encore? Well, a national championship would be ideal.
"Right after we lost that game [against North Carolina], I was ready to get back on this mission of winning the National Championship," Bregman said. "I think this year, it's a business trip. Everything we do is about business. I think that's the mentality everyone on the team is going to take."
Bregman's no longer just a phenomenal freshman. He's a year older now and has taken on the added leadership responsibility with open arms. He'll wear the No. 8 jersey this year, a tradition similar to the football team's No. 18 that started with Mikie Mahtook followed by Mason Katz.
"I kind of led in a different way last year," Bregman said. "I felt like I was not leading vocally as much. I think this year I need to take over more of a vocal leadership role."
There isn't anyone that's going to outwork Bregman. That's about as guaranteed as death and taxes. So add in a little extra motivation, of which he's not lacking, and that's a dangerous formula for opponents.
Bregman doesn't hide his disappointment from last year's College World Series. He doesn't dwell on it, but he doesn't forget that costly error against UCLA either. While it may have been unacceptable for the perfectionist in Bregman, he found the lesson in all of it.
"I think it's big that we have that experience," Bregman said. "We are going to come in knowing what it's like. Knowing the field and knowing what you have to do to win there. I think it's huge, but I think we also have to remember that the season doesn't start in Omaha, it starts Feb. 14, so we have a long way to go."
While LSU knows what it has with Bregman, second base is a bit bigger question mark. JUCO transfer Connor Hale has emerged as the opening day starter to replace JaCoby Jones, who started 167 games at that position over the last three seasons.
Hale won out particularly for his experience and steady glove. He was the Suncoast Conference Player of the Year in 2013, playing third base for State College of Florida. He hit .366 last year with 18 doubles and 65 RBI, so he has the bat to be an effective player offensively as well.
Behind him will be a pair of freshmen in the aforementioned Zardon and Kramer Robertson. Though, Paul Mainieri has mostly moved Zardon over to third base, he still worked the entire fall at second and would be an option there if need be. Robertson was another big standout in the fall and is very smooth on the defensive end.
While neither of these two freshmen seems set to be in the Opening Day lineup, Mainieri has high expectations for both.
"Eventually these two will be good players in the program," he said. "I just don't know when that will be."