Last summer, third-year head coach Paul Mainieri helped steer the Tiger baseball team back to their seat at the top of the college baseball world.
Seven months later, Mainieri’s club, ranked No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 3 by Baseball American, takes to the practice field as one of the country’s most talked about teams.
With the loss of senior Louis Coleman, LSU’s pitching staff will be one of the most important areas of focus for Mainieri over the next couple of months.
The positions already locked up are Anthony Ranaudo as the Friday night starter and Matty Ott in the closer’s role. Ranaudo finished the 2009 season with a 12-3 record and 3.04 ERA. Ott, who recorded a 4-2 record with a 2.68 ERA, had an LSU single-season record 16 saves.
The two other weekend starters will come between juniors Austin Ross and Daniel Bradshaw and sophomore Joey Bourgeois, a transer from LSU-Eunice. During last season’s Omaha run, Ross served primarily as the Sunday starter, where he finished the year with a 6-8 record and 5.18 ERA. Bradshaw recorded a perfect 4-0 record to go with a 3.04 ERA in 25 appearances that spanned 50 innings.
Outside of the pitching rotation, the Tigers’ starting lineup is essentially complete.
Back after a red-hot junior campaign, Blake Dean makes the move from designated hitter to first base. Dean, who started 72 games last season, finished the year with a .328 average at the plate.
Sophomore Tyler Hanover, who saw time at third base during his freshman campaign last season, moves to second base. Wet Delatte will fill in at third, with Austin Nola at shortstop and Micah Gibbs back as the starting catcher for the third season in a row. Gibbs’ backup will be Wes Luquette, who underwent Tommy John surgery that will keep him sidelined until April.
In the outfield, returning starters include the likes of Leon Landry and Mikie Mahtook. Trey Watkins will step in and fill the void in left field.
At the designated hitter spot, Mainieri pegged Matt Gaudet and Johnny Dishon – both of whom redshirted last season – as the current frontrunners. Grant Dozar, who could backup as many as three infield spots, is another name in the mix.
Before his decision to head into the NFL Draft, junior southpaw Chad Jones was expected to step into both relief pitcher and designated hitter roles. The Tigers will also work without the services of Edmund Sparks (academic troubles), Spencer Matthews (injured) and Michael Lowry (surgery).
LSU opens the season in three weeks with a three-game series against Centenary at The Box. The last time the Tigers and Gents met was May 12, 2009, a game that LSU won 12-4 to finish with a 28-9 regular season record in their new park.
Between now and then, Mainieri could add walk on names to a lineup that currently features 16 position players and 14 pitchers.