LSU Baseball Looking Forward to 2018
Communications Sr. Associate
BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said Wednesday that the Tigers have begun focusing upon the 2018 season and will welcome 18 new players when the team reports to campus next month.
“This will be a unique season for us in the sense that if you have a 35-man roster with 18 new players, literally half of your entire roster will be brand new,” said Mainieri, who directed the 2017 Tigers to the Southeastern Conference title and a national runners-up finish at the College World Series. “We have a lot of work to do, and we probably won’t enter the season as highly-touted as we were this past year. I feel very confident about this group, though, and I’m really looking forward to working with them.”
The Tigers start fall semester classes on Monday, August 21, and they will engage in a four-week period of conditioning drills and individual workouts beginning on Monday, August 28.
LSU starts its six-week, full-squad fall practice session on Sunday, September 24, and the 2018 season begins on Friday, February 16, when the Tigers play host to Notre Dame in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
Mainieri, who just completed his 11th season at LSU and has directed the Tigers to six consecutive NCAA Tournament National Seeds, said that members of the incoming class will make a significant impact on the 2018 squad, which will also feature several returning players who were instrumental in the drive to the ’17 CWS Finals.
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.
Infielders Chris Reid and Rankin Woley, and outfielder Brennan Breaux are other veteran players 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 earlier this month.
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 2017 MLB Draft – right-handed pitcher AJ Labas, right-handed pitcher Cameron Sanders, outfielder/left-handed pitcher Daniel Cabrera and right-handed pitcher Nick Storz.
“With 11 new pitchers and three new catchers on the roster, our two biggest priorities going into the fall are determining who will fill roles on the mound and behind the plate,” Mainieri said. “I really like the makeup of our team with the blend of newcomers and players who have competed at the highest level in the College World Series. Our expectation will be, as it always is at LSU, to have our team in position to play for championships at the end of the year.”