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Doug Thompson named color analyst for home games

Former LSU righty Doug Thompson, the winning pitcher in the Tigers’ 1997 national championship game, was named the color analyst for the LSU Sports Radio Network’s broadcast of home games on Friday.

Thompson, 39, will join Chris Blair, who begins his first season as the “Voice of the Tigers” on Feb. 19 against Cincinnati. Longtime color analyst Charles Hanagriff tweeted last week he and LSU Sports Properties “could not agree on terms.”

Sports information director Bill Franques, who has been a part of the broadcast team since 1991, will still be the analyst during LSU road games.

Thompson will be the sole color analyst for home games, Franques said. Franques said Buzzy Haydel, a Tiger reserve on the 2009 national championship team, could be utilized in the booth if Thompson is ever unavailable.

Quick Hits from LSU Baseball Media Day: Paul Mainieri’s projected opening night lineup, injury notes

LSU coach Paul Mainieri met with reporters Friday to kick off the 2016 baseball season. Here’s a quick summary of the news Mainieri delivered on his tenth media day:

Not all young

Mainieri cracked a joke to open his address — that his team’s most important supplement may be Boudreaux’s Butt Paste given the diaper rash this young team that replaces eight of nine everyday starters may face.

Paul Mainieri and LSU are No. 7 in Perfect Game's top 25. (AP)

Paul Mainieri expects six returners in his opening day lineup. (AP)

It’s not all young, though. Mainieri said six returning players will be in LSU’s opening night lineup — Jake Fraley in center field, Kramer Robertson at second base, Greg Deichmann at first, Mike Papierski behind the plate, Bryce Jordan at designated hitter and his brother, Beau, in left field.

Rounding out the projected opening night lineup were two freshmen — Antoine Duplantis in right field and Trey Dawson at shortstop –and junior college transfer Cole Freeman at third.

So, all in one place, Mainieri’s projected opening day lineup:

Papierski (C)

Deichmann (1B)

Robertson (2B)

Dawson (SS)

Freeman (3B)

Beau Jordan (LF)

Fraley (CF)

Duplantis (RF)

Bryce Jordan (DH)

As far as a batting order is concerned, Mainieri would only commit to a 3-4-5 of a combination of Fraley, Beau Jordan and Deichmann, while hinting Duplantis and Robertson could flip-flop at 1-2 in the order.

Bush done for the season, Ducote injured in freak accident, Latz could start throwing in a week or two

Freshman lefty Nick Bush will miss the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Mainieri said. Bush had surgery in the fall, threw a bullpen and had more elbow issues, leading to the surgery.

Junior college outfielder Cody Ducote had what Mainieri termed a “freak accident,” cutting his hand on a broken bottle under some leaves, requiring surgery. He can’t grip a bat, Mainieri said, until March.

Heralded lefty Jake Latz, fresh off offseason elbow surgery, should be ready to throw a baseball in a week or two. Mainieri is still holding out hope he can help the team in late April.

Bonvillain on staff

Former LSU lefty Brent Bonvillain, who is one semester away from graduation, has joined the staff as an undergraduate assistant coach.

Aside from throwing left-handed batting practice, Bonvillain will coach first base while new volunteer assistant coach Nolan Cain will man third base.

USA Today Coaches Poll pegs LSU No. 5

Alex Lange makes his first SEC road start Friday night. (Angela Major)

The LSU baseball team was ranked fifth in the USA Today Coaches Poll released Thursday, tied for the Tigers’ highest ranking of the five polls that have been released.

The Tigers, who will replace eight of nine position players from last season’s College World Series team, were also ranked No. 5 by Perfect Game. They came in at No. 7 in both Collegiate Baseball and D1Baseball’s rankings, while Baseball America had them No. 11.

LSU is behind three conference foes in the USA Today Poll — top ranked Florida, No. 3 Vanderbilt and No. 4 Texas A&M. Florida has been ranked No. 1 in all five preseason polls.

Individual game tickets on sale Feb. 3-4

A limited number of single game tickets will be available to the public Feb. 3 beginning at 7 p.m. until Feb. 4 at 8 a.m., the school announced Thursday.

That sale is a “Create Your Own 15-Game or More” package, where customers can select 15 or more home games with a limit of eight tickets per game.

Remaining tickets will then be available to the public at 8 a.m. on Feb. 5 at lsutix.net. Ticket promotions are also offered for youth baseball/softball teams, active duty and retired military personnel and groups of 10 or more.

Baseball America pegs Tigers at No. 11; Lange, Fraley All-Americans

 (Eliot Kamenitz)

(Eliot Kamenitz)

After debuting in the top 10 of three preseason polls, LSU came in at No. 11 in Baseball America’s rankings released Monday.

The Tigers, who are tasked with replacing eight of nine everyday starters, were ranked No. 7 by both D1Baseball.com and Collegiate Baseball and were No. 5 — their highest ranking — in Perfect Game‘s poll.

Florida, returning 18 letterwinners from a College World Series team, was No. 1 in all four polls.

Lange, Fraley honored as Preseason All-Americans

Reigning National Freshman of the Year Alex Lange was named a preseason First Team All-American by D1baseball.com on Monday, while outfielder Jake Fraley made the Third Team.

The two were both honored in the same capacity by Perfect Game  and Lange was also a preseason First Team selection by Collegiate Baseball.

Lange went 12-0 in his freshman season with a 1.97 ERA while Fraley — the only everyday position player returning for the Tigers — hit. 307 with 23 stolen bases last season.

First Pitch Banquet set for Jan. 31

(HILARY SCHEINUK)

(HILARY SCHEINUK)

Retiring play-by-play man Jim Hawthorne will serve as the keynote speaker for LSU baseball’s annual First Pitch Banquet on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Chris Blair, Hawthorne’s successor who will begin his LSU career calling this baseball season, will also address the audience. Warren Morris, whose home run in the ninth inning of the 1996 College World Series gave LSU its third national title, is also expected to be in attendance.

Members of the 2016 LSU team will hold an autograph session from 6-7 p.m. before the banquet and a live auction begin. A silent auction will also take place from 6-8:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased online at https://lsutaf.org/Events

 

Will Davis to coach at Lamar in 2016, Nolan Cain elevated

The program is called Sydex BATS. All Major League teams use it and when Nolan Cain arrived back at his alma mater as the coordinator of baseball operations in 2013, he implemented it as part of the LSU baseball program.

“It records everything that goes on the field and every play is cut and then tagged,” Cain explained. “Basically you can go through and filter every play from last year at Alex Box Stadium when there’s a runner on second and two outs and there’s a base hit.”

Nolan Cain

Nolan Cain

Cain’s been doing it all week.

Will Davis, who was hired as Lamar’s head coach last week, will head to Beaumont and will not be a part of LSU coach Paul Mainieri’s staff in 2016 and Cain, a pitcher on LSU’s 2009 national championship team, will assume Davis’ on-field coaching duties as a volunteer assistant coach.

Former LSU catcher Micah Gibbs will become coordinator of baseball operations, according to a source.

Cain will assume all of Davis’ coaching duties — including becoming the Tigers’ third base coach. Mainieri said he and hitting coach Andy Cannizaro briefly discussed having Cannizaro coach third base, but thought Cannizaro would be better served to stay in the dugout so he could more easily communicate with hitters between innings and at-bats.

“I’ve already gone and watched situations, watched Will’s body language, when he’s waving them (home),” Cain said. “I’m getting very familiar with it, getting comfortable with it and I feel I’ll do a great job.”

Cain, a catcher throughout his high school days before coming to LSU as a pitcher, will coach catchers, baserunning and outfielders while also running the LSU baseball summer camps and acting as the liaison for the baseball alumni and Coaches Committee.

He made 73 career appearances as a reliever for the Tigers, including a 5-0 senior season where LSU won a national title.  He signed a minor league contract with the Detroit Tigers in June 2009 and pitched briefly in the minors.

“You get labeled as a pitcher-only, but I’ve always been around the game, even when I was here,” Cain said. “Whether it was (former LSU assistant) Cliff Godwin working with the hitters or working with the catchers when I first came back with (former LSU hitting coach) Javi (Sanchez). Being around practice and being around the game and just having that thirst for learning. I’ve always taken pride in wanting to be a baseball coach and be well-rounded.”

Cain’s trajectory is similar to Davis, who served as Mainieri’s coordinator of baseball operations for one season in 2008 before being elevated to a coaching position in 2009 — Cain’s senior season.

“I’m excited for Nolan to take on this new role,” Mainieri said. “There was something different about Nolan. He was always a student of the game and when he was a player, he was always keeping a chart, standing next to the coaches. You could tell his wheels were turning whenever we would do things.”

Cain has held the coordinator of operations position since September 2013, overseeing team travel, budgeting and community relations.

Micah Gibbs

Micah Gibbs

Gibbs, a Pflugerville, Texas native the starting catcher for that 2009 team, was a third round pick of the Cubs in the 2010 MLB Draft. He played six seasons of minor league ball, reaching Triple-A within the Kansas City Royals organization in 2015.

 

Beer, wine sales approved for men’s and women’s College World Series

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Beer and wine will be sold in general seating through a one-year pilot program at this year’s College World Series and Women’s College World Series, the NCAA announced on Wednesday.

The decision was made last week by the Division I Board of Directors, which had to waive an existing rule prohibiting alcohol sales at NCAA championships. The ruling covers final championship sites only, according to an NCAA news release, meaning regionals and super regionals are still alcohol-free.

Only beer and wine will be sold — no liquor — and can only be purchased at the concession stands, no “roving vendors” will be permitted to sell.

Alcohol has been sold since 2013 in premium seating at TD Ameritrade Park and an “impetus” for the decision, according to the NCAA, was a report from schools that indicated when they sold alcohol at events, alcohol-related incidents declined sharply.

“Theories suggest that making alcohol available in the stadium prevents incidents of binge drinking before events and discourages people from attempting to bring outside alcohol into the venue,” the release said.

The NCAA also said it would work with law enforcement in Omaha and Oklahoma City (the site of the Women’s College World Series) to compare statistics alcohol-related incidents this year to previous years.

“That information will be provided to the board members to inform decisions on the future of alcohol sales at championship events,” the release said.

The 2016 College World Series begins on June 18 while the Women’s College World Series begins on June 2.

 

‘The sky’s the limit.’ LSU assistant Will Davis to take over Lamar baseball program in 2017

When his father, Randy, was an assistant baseball coach at South Carolina in the mid 90s, Will Davis asked to be the bat boy. Then just starting middle school, Will took on the menial task of retrieving the bats and placing them back on the rack with an additional undertaking.

A math wizard, Will would take the Gamecock players’ bats, informing them how far their batting average dipped following an unsuccessful at-bat.

“You’re down to .216 now,” he told one, a productive shortstop whose average didn’t reflect his true value to the team.

Will Davis

Will Davis

“And he would just get furious,” his father, Randy, laughed on Friday, hours after Will – a nine-year LSU assistant – accepted Lamar’s head coaching job.

A former assistant to LSU legend Skip Bertman and later head coach at Louisiana Tech, Randy recalls his son’s fifth grade year.

He knew before then that Will would be a baseball coach – how could he not be with his upbringing, he asks– but it was then where Randy saw the hours of his son sitting next to he and Bertman materialize into substance.

“He was moving this guy over, telling this guy to do that and all that kind of stuff,” Randy remembered. “And he was right.”

Will remembers when he was 12. Randy was now the head coach at Louisiana Tech, where his team had just been knocked out of the Sun Belt Tournament at UL-Lafayette. Will looked around as seniors sobbed, knowing their careers were likely over.

“It really hit me for the first time at 12 years old that, wow, you don’t play baseball forever,” Will said Friday. “It really scared me, shocked me. I don’t think most 12 year olds get a chance to realize that.

“Then I realized, wait a minute, I can be a coach just like my dad.”

Will now gets that chance, inheriting a Southland Conference program that Jim Gilligan guided to unparalleled successes in a 38-year, Texas Baseball Hall of Fame career.

Gilligan will retire at the end of this season and it is unclear when Will will go to Beaumont. Will said the plan, right now, is for him to coach at LSU in 2016, though he added details at Lamar are still being finalized.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who convinced Will to stay with the program when he arrived in Baton Rouge as head coach in 2007, said his nine-year assistant has his approval to do whatever is best for his new program.

“He has my blessing if he wants to go immediately,” Mainieri said. “We have a plan, … and I think we can have a pretty seamless transition. If that’s what the best thing is for Will and the program, I’m all for it.”

Mainieri met with athletic director Joe Alleva on Friday to discuss his initial plans for the staff. The coach estimated a decision would be made by next week.

A Lee High graduate, Will, then projected as LSU’s third-string catcher, wanted to jumpstart his career by coaching a local high school when Mainieri arrived.

Instead, Mainieri offered to mentor him. A year later, in 2008, Mainieri made him his coordinator of baseball operations before promoting him to a volunteer assistant coach in 2009.

“I remember telling him ‘Here’s a kid you have to watch, regarding his coaching,'” Bertman said. “He would get very, very excited, would really be into it. Incredibly honorable and incredibly loyal to Paul and (former LSU coach) Smoke (Laval). I think those are great traits.”

Since then, Will’s worked with outfielders, catchers, coached third base, ran the LSU baseball summer camps, overseen players’ summer ball placement and been the head of the Coaches Committee – the program’s booster club.

He was also the head of Louisiana recruiting from 2011-14, luring in-state talent like Kade Scivicque, Andrew Stevenson and Mark Laird to campus. All are now playing professional baseball.

Will Davis accepted the Lamar coaching job Friday

Will Davis accepted the Lamar coaching job Friday

“Being under the microscope here at LSU and the importance of every little decision we’ve made as coaches, not just the one in games, but the ones in recruiting and practice and how much they impact so many people that care, it never allows you to let up,” Will said. “That really prepares you for anything that comes your way in coaching.”

Scivicque, the first LSU baseball player  from the little-known town of Maurepas, credited Will with his entire LSU journey. He spotted Scivicque at a travel-ball tournament, kept him on his radar, then coached him behind the plate to 2015 First Team All-American honors while becoming a Johnny Bench Award finalist.

“He had almost everything to do with me getting there,” said Scivicque, who was just named a non-roster invitee to Detroit Tigers spring training. “(Now) when I go to the field, it’s everything me and him worked on. It’s still the same stuff I work on everyday. It’s helped me a lot.”

Perhaps the only thing Will hadn’t accomplished on the field in his time at LSU to prepare him for a head coaching job was working specifically with pitchers.

Instead, he went to Bertman.

“With Paul’s permission, Will would come to my house in the past few years and talk about pitching, which Will didn’t do. Not about Mainieri’s pitching, about pitching skills in general,” Bertman said. “He’s very bright. He can pick up, he can retain and absorb a lot of knowledge. I think he’s a very good teacher, which is obviously the whole thing.”

Randy says you’re never really ready to be a head coach – baseball has too many variables and is too unpredictable to ever make concrete predictions.

Son echoes father, cognizant of his current position.

“I haven’t achieved anything as a head coach yet and I’m very excited for the job, but I’m really ready to get started and excited for the journey,” Will said. “I think we all know the caliber of player Texas produces, not just Texas but the golden triangle there in Beaumont. That gives me great hope that the sky is the limit.”

So is Randy.

“He’s very passionate, a hard worker, and he’s very smart,” Randy said. “You can’t ask for much more than what he’s given us.”

Eleven of LSU’s SEC baseball games to be televised

It's a sun-splashed Sunday at the Box.

More than 90 SEC baseball games will air on the ESPN family of networks, the conference announced Thursday.

LSU will have 11 games televised across the family of networks. The SEC opener will be a part of a four-hour, live compilation Bases Loaded show that features seven games on March 18 — the opening night of conference play when the Tigers host Alabama.

In addition, the entire SEC Tournament will be broadcast on the SEC Network, with the SEC Championship Game on May 29 moving to ESPN 2.

LSU also announced Thursday that all 56 regular season games would be available for viewing, mostly on SEC Network+. Three early road games at Lamar, at Nicholls St and against UL-Lafayette (at Zephyr Field ) will be televised by Cox Sports Television.

The Tigers’ other 10 televised conference games, dates, times and stations are as follows:

Thurs. March 24: LSU at Texas A&M,  6:00 p.m., SEC Network

Fri, March 25: LSU at Texas A&M, 8:00 p.m., SEC Network

Thurs, April 7, Vanderbilt at LSU, 6:00 p.m., SEC Network

Fri, April 8, Vanderbilt at LSU, 6:00 p.m., SEC Network

Sat. April 23, Mississippi State at LSU, 6:00 p.m., ESPNU

Sun .April, 24, Mississippi State at LSU, 12:00 p.m., ESPN2

Thurs. April 28, LSU at Ole Miss, 6:00 p.m., SEC Network

Sat. April 30, LSU at Ole Miss, 11:00 a.m., ESPN2

Sat. May 14, LSU at Tennessee, 12:00 p.m., SEC Network

Fri. May 20, Florida at LSU, 6:00 p.m., SEC Network

LSU gets highest preseason ranking in Perfect Game poll

Alex Lange is 11-0. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Alex Lange. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Two days after the publication named LSU players Alex Lange and Jake Fraley preseason All-Americans, Perfect Game ranked the Tigers No. 5 in its preseason poll — LSU’s highest preseason ranking yet.

The Tigers were ranked No. 7 by Collegiate Baseball and D1Baseball.com before today’s poll released by Perfect Game. Conference foe Florida is ranked No. 1 in all three polls.

Four of the top five teams in Perfect Game’s poll are from the SEC — Florida, Texas A&M at No. 3, Vanderbilt at No. 4 and LSU.

UL-Lafayette, LSU’s super regional opponent from last season, checks in at No. 10.

Here’s the full poll:

Rk Team ’15 Record ’15 Rk 2015 Finish
1
Florida
52-18 3 CWS third-place finish
2
Louisville
47-18 8 Louisville Super Regional
3
Texas A&M
50-14 12 Fort Worth Super Regional
4
Vanderbilt
51-21 2 CWS Runner-up
5
Louisiana State
54-12 4 CWS fifth-place finish
6
Oregon State
39-19-1 18 Dallas Regional
7
Oklahoma State
38-20 20 Stillwater Regional
8
California
36-21 NR College Station Regional
9
Virginia
44-24 1 CWS Champions
10
Louisiana
42-23 24 Baton Rouge Super Regional
11
Miami
50-17 6 CWS sixth-place finish
12
Oregon
38-25 NR Springfield (Mo.) Regional
13
NC State
36-23 NR Fort Worth Regional
14
UCLA
45-16 9 Los Angeles Regional
15
Missouri
30-28 NR SEC Tournament
16
Houston
43-20 17 Houston Regional
17
Mississippi State
24-30 NR Did not make postseason
18
Texas Christian
51-15 5 CWS fourth-place finish
19
Oklahoma
34-27 NR Big 12 Championship
20
Florida State
44-21 13 Gainesville Super Regional
21
Coastal Carolina
39-20 NR College Station Regional
22
North Carolina
34-24 NR ACC Championship
23
Michigan
39-25 NR Louisville Regional
24
Notre Dame
37-23 NR Champaign Regional
25
Texas Tech
31-24