LSU Gold

LSU Baseball No. 10 in 2018 Preseason Poll

by Bill Franques
LSU Baseball No. 10 in 2018 Preseason Poll

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU is ranked No. 10 in the 2018 Collegiate Baseball newspaper preseason poll released Tuesday, marking the seventh straight season the Tigers will begin the year among the Top 10 teams in the nation.

LSU, the 2017 College World Series national runners-up, has earned an NCAA-record six straight NCAA Tournament National Seeds (2012-17).

LSU is one of five Southeastern Conference teams appearing in the 2018 preseason Top 10, along with No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 6 Vanderbilt and No. 8 Kentucky.

Other SEC squads appearing in the Top 40 are No. 13 Mississippi State, No. 19 South Carolina, No. 33 Texas A&M, No. 35 Auburn and No. 38 Ole Miss.

LSU’s non-conference opponents appearing in the poll are No. 17 South Alabama, No. 18 Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 26 Texas. The Tigers will play a total of 27 regular-season games against teams appearing in the Collegiate Baseball Top 40.

LSU opens the 2018 season at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 16, versus Notre Dame in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.

“It’s always fun to look at these polls now because it makes you realize the college baseball season is right around the corner, as opening day is only 58 days away,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who has directed the Tigers to one national championship, five College World Series appearances, four SEC overall titles, six SEC division titles and six SEC tournament championships in 11 seasons. “To see ‘LSU’ as the 10th ranked team in the country going into the season is exciting, however, we are not satisfied with that ranking. It just means we only have nine spots to go to get to where we want to be, which is No. 1.

“We realize that nothing will be handed to us. It will take an unbelievable amount of hustle and hard work, a tough attitude, unwavering confidence, and clutch play for us to achieve our goals.”

LSU completed its fall practice session in November, and the Tigers will begin preseason workouts on January 26.

LSU returns six position players who filled everyday starting roles last season, including outfielders Antoine Duplantis, Zach Watson and Beau Jordan, and infielders Josh Smith, Jake Slaughter and Nick Coomes.

Infielder Chris Reid is also a veteran player with starting experience, and the Tigers will be bolstered by the return of infielder/catcher Bryce Jordan, who missed the entire 2017 season due to a knee injury.

LSU, however, will have to replace its entire weekend starting pitching rotation as Alex Lange and Jared Poche’ have moved on to professional baseball , and right-hander Eric Walker, a 2017 Freshman All-American, will be sidelined in 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Junior right-hander Caleb Gilbert (7-1, 2.16 ERA in 2017) and sophomore right-hander Zack Hess (7-1, 3.12 ERA, four saves in 2017) are the top returning members of the LSU staff, which also includes veteran pitchers Austin Bain, Nick Bush, Matthew Beck, Todd Peterson and Will Reese.

The Tigers’ talented group of 18 newcomers contains four players that were selected in the 2018 MLB Draft – right-handed pitcher AJ Labas, right-handed pitcher Cameron Sanders, outfielder/left-handed pitcher Daniel Cabrera and right-handed pitcher Nick Storz. Other new players to watch include catcher Hunter Feduccia, infielders Hal Hughes, Brandt Broussard and Nick Webre, and pitchers Ma’Khail Hilliard and Devin Fontenot.