After a somewhat injury plagued 2019 season, the Fighting Tigers of LSU are reloaded and ready to set their sights on Omaha. LSU finds itself in the middle of an absolutely loaded SEC Western division ranked No. 11 and 12 in the D1Baseball and USA TODAY preseason polls, respectively.
Going into the 2020 season, LSU head coach Paul Mainieri finds himself with an abundance of capable arms. That wasn’t the case last season as LSU was without the help of A. J. Labas, a 2018 Freshman All-American pitcher who missed all of 2019 to injury, as well as the highly touted Nick Storz who has yet to pitch any significant time for the Tigers. To top off LSU’s 2019 pitching woes freshman phenom, Jaden Hill, went down after just two starts while posting a 1.80 ERA.
LSU now has five legitimate starters and all will most likely see some weekend rotation spots in the early part of the season. As far as Coach Mainieri is concerned, the opening weekend rotation will be Cole Henry (2019 Freshman All-American) on Friday, Landon Marceaux who is 15 lbs. lighter AND added velocity to his pitches, and on Sunday A. J. Labas who just happens to be another Freshman All-American. That leaves Eric Walker, who was the Sunday starter on LSU’s 2018 CWS Runner-Up team and Jaden Hill, the 2019 Sunday starter (before his season ending injury) as two very talented pitchers who will find ways to contribute either as a starter or coming out of the bullpen.
Coach Mainieri attributes his healthy staff to new technology. Beginning in the fall LSU pitchers used Motus sleeves which track arm stress, workload, and other bio mechanical data.
“We’re giving them more days off of throwing than we ever have before. And I think that’s been a positive thing. All I can tell you is this fall, the velocities were up, there were no injuries, and the guys still pitched well. So I think we’re onto something, and we’ll see if it works in the spring.”lsusports.net
On the offensive side, LSU welcomes new hitting coach Eddie Smith, who comes from rival Tulane. During his time as hitting coach with the Green Wave they set AAC season records for home runs, batting average, runs per game, runs scored, total bases, slugging percentage, extra base hits, and walks per game. Coach Smith put a heavy emphasis on walks and extra base hits in fall practice with LSU.
The Tigers are expecting to get offensive production from their two Pre-Season 1st Team All SEC players Cade Beloso and Daniel Cabrera. Beloso hit 10 home runs and drove in 52 runs last year while Cabrera dinged 12 out of the park and collected 50 RBI in 2019.
LSU is also expecting to get offensive production from returning catcher Saul Garza who had red hot back half of the year at the plate as well as production from junior college transfer Zach Mathis who was picked by the Minnesota Twins in the 39th round but decided to take his talents to LSU instead.
As with most years you can expect Coach Mainieri to adjust the lineup, tinker with the batting order and pitching assignments in midweek games and weekend series before SEC play begins as players solidify their roles going into the meat of the schedule.
LSU certainly has their work cutout for them in 2020. The Tigers play 27 games against teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last season. But with a loaded pitching staff, returning position players, and talented newcomers, the Tigers are poised to make another run for Omaha.
LSU opens the season against defending BIG10 champions Indiana on Friday February, 14th at 7:00pm CST in Alex Box Stadium.