Summer Ball Begins New Era

When the LSU baseball team found the exit door earlier than expected this postseason, the focus turned to summer ball. Where are the team's top talents spending the months of June and July?

Coming off a national championship in 2009, summer ball was cut short for most of the Tigers, unable to report until after the team returned from Omaha, Neb. in late June.

No matter, the team’s biggest names made their mark.

Outfielder Leon Landry, playing for the Harwich (Mass.) Mariners in the Cape Cod League, batted .364 (36-for-99) with four doubles, two homers and 12 RBI in 24 games.

A prelude to his red-hot junior campaign, catcher Micah Gibbs, who hit three home runs in 18 games for Yarmouth-Dennis, was named an alternate for the Cape Cod League All-Star Game. The Red Sox roster also included LSU pitcher Austin Ross, who was 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23.1 innings.

Matt Gaudet, who finished his senior season in 2010 with a team-best 19 home runs from the DH spot, was named as an All-Star for the Hannibal (Mo.) Cavemen in the Prospect League. During the stretch he had 12 doubles, four home runs and 24 RBI.

Even outfielder Johnny Dishon, who started just 14 games this past spring, found himself in a hot-streak, batting .304 (41-for-135) with 11 doubles, four home runs, 37 runs and 25 RBI for the Staunton (Va.) Braves in the Valley League.

The downside?

They are playing ball again this summer, but no longer as part of the LSU program.

The Chicago Cubs took Gibbs, a first-team All-SEC selection who went undrafted out of high school in Pflugerville, Texas, with their third-round selection. Landry, taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers, also went in the third round.

The Milwaukee Brewers scooped up both Ross and Dishon. Ross, a right-hander that led the Tigers in starts (13), innings pitched (88) and strikeouts (98), was taken in the eighth round. Dishon, who batted .213 with three doubles, one triple, four home runs and six steals in seven attempts, was drafted in the 42nd round. Both have been assigned to the Brewers’ Rookie League affiliate in Helena, Mont.

All four former Tigers either signed contracts or agreed to terms with their respective MLB club this past week, ending a stretch in Baton Rouge that included a 2009 national championship, two College World Series appearances, one SEC regular-season title and three SEC Tournament trophies.

Head coach Paul Mainieri called the departures, which also included the graduation of Blake Dean, “the end of an era.”

For returning names like Mikie Mahtook, it’s about turning a new page and reading of the same LSU successes.

“The group of guys that are sophomores now will be counted on big time next season, but that’s something we are ready for,” Mahtook said. “Everyone always gets out and works hard during the offseason, and we’ll start by setting that same tone this year.”

Mahtook will be joined by shortstop Austin Nola at the USA Collegiate Team Trials in Cary, N.C. on July 5.

Nola will also suit up alongside right-hander Matty Ott for the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod League. After setting the single-season save record in 2009, Ott hit a sophomore slump, finishing the year with a 2-4 record and 6.38 ERA in 28 appearances.

Second baseman Tyler Hanover is also headed to the Cape, rejoining the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox after batting .300 (27-for-90) with four doubles, two homers and 16 RBI in 25 games as an All-Star with the club last summer.

The Cape also welcomes pitchers Joey Bourgeois, who will throw for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, Chris Matulis and Anthony Ranaudo, who will both join the Brewster Whitecaps.

Ranaudo, who was taken 39th overall by the Boston Red Sox, is attempting to show management that he has bucked any lingering issues from an early-season elbow injury.

During his first outing of the summer this past Sunday, the 6-foot-7 right-hander pitched a strong four innings to carry Brewster to the 3-2 win over Bourne.

Working a fastball in the 91-93 mph range and a breaking ball that clocked between 78-80 mph, Ranaudo allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out three. He threw 64 pitches, 42 of which went for strikes.

After a strong finish to his junior season, right-hander Ben Alsup, who compiled a 5-1 record in 2010, heads to the Valley League to join the Staunton Braves. The Waynesboro Generals welcome right-handers Daniel Bradshaw and Michael Reed.

Three Tigers, Mason Katz, Alex Edward and Zach LaSuzzo, will join the Prospect League. Katz and Edward, who both found playing time on the back end of the season, will play for the Danville Dans, the same club that Nola found success with in 2009.

Southpaw Jordan Rittiner, who finished his freshman campaign with a 4-4 record and 4.37 ERA in 26 appearances, heads to the Coastal Plain League to join the Thomasville Hitoms, while rising sophomores Matt Fury and Chris Cotton stay in-state with the Alexandria Aces as part of the Texas Collegiate League.


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