BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU is ranked No. 11 in the 2019 Collegiate Baseball newspaper preseason poll released Monday, marking the ninth straight season the Tigers will begin the year among the Top 15 teams in the nation.
LSU completed its fall practice session in November, and the team will begin preseason workouts on January 24. The Tigers open the 2020 season at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 14, versus Indiana in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
“I’m very optimistic about the potential and the ability of this team,” said coach Paul Mainieri, who will enter the 2020 season ranked No. 2 on the active NCAA Division I coaches wins list with 1,455 career victories in 37 seasons at St. Thomas, Air Force, Notre Dame and LSU. “We had a very productive fall practice, and we learned a lot about our players. I was very pleased with their competitiveness and work ethic, and we built a lot of positive momentum heading into the spring.
“We have a very challenging schedule and a lot of young players, but I expect this team to sustain the standard of excellence we’ve established at LSU.”
LSU returns five position players who started at least half of LSU’s 66 games in 2019, including outfielder Daniel Cabrera, catcher Saul Garza, first baseman Cade Beloso, outfielder Giovanni DiGiacomo and infielder Hal Hughes.
Other returning veterans who filled part-time starting roles last season are first baseman/outfielder CJ Willis, and outfielders Gavin Dugas and Drew Bianco.
The pitching staff features 11 Tigers who recorded innings last season, including three weekend starters – right-handers Cole Henry, Landon Marceaux and Eric
Walker. Right-hander Devin Fontenot, who posted seven saves in 2019, and right-hander Matthew Beck, who was 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA last season, are back to lead the LSU bullpen.
Right-hander Jaden Hill, who began 2019 as a weekend starter but suffered an early season-ending injury, will return to the mound this season, along with experienced right-handers AJ Labas, Ma’Khail Hilliard and Trent Vietmeier.
The Tigers’ talented 14-man recruiting class – voted No. 6 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball – is composed of 10 position players and four pitchers, and it contains four players that have been chosen in an MLB Draft – infielders Zach Arnold, Zack Mathis and Cade Doughty, and outfielder Mo Hampton Jr.
The class also includes left-handed pitchers Jacob Hasty and Brandon Kaminer to bolster the staff.
LSU is one of seven Southeastern Conference teams appearing in the Collegiate Baseball 2020 preseason Top 15, along with No. 2 Vanderbilt, No. 6 Mississippi State, No. 7 Georgia, No. 8 Auburn, No. 9 Arkansas and No. 14 Florida.
No. 21 Texas A&M is the only other SEC team appearing in the Top 40 of the poll.
LSU’s non-conference opponents appearing in the poll are No. 22 Texas, No. 23 South Alabama, No. 24 Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 30 Oklahoma. The Tigers will play a total of 19 regular-season games against teams appearing in the Collegiate Baseball Top 40.
The 2020 schedule features SEC weekend home series versus Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, South Carolina and Alabama. The non-conference slate is highlighted by a trip to Minute Maid Park in Houston for the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic on February 28-March 1, when LSU will meet Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma.