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Part II, Q and A with LSU coach Paul Mainieri: Options abound to replace eight of nine in lineup

Paul Mainieri enters his eighth season as LSU's coach. (Patrick Dennis | The Advocate)

Paul Mainieri has options to replace the eight departed members of his starting lineup. (Patrick Dennis | The Advocate)

In Part II of Paul Mainieri’s post-fall interview with The Advocate, the LSU coach discussed the many options he has to replace the eight departed members of a starting lineup that carried last season’s Tigers to the College World Series.

Mainieri was high on both sophomore Mike Papierski and junior Jake Fraley, who had what the coach called the best fall of his career. Mainieri also proclaimed speedy freshman Antoine Duplantis a budding SEC star.

Still, Mainieri has decisions to make and positions to evaluate before February, but he liked what he saw from the crop of new talent in their six-week introduction to LSU.

Here is Part I of our interview with Mainieri, which focused exclusively on the LSU pitching staff.

Q: All the talk coming into the fall was about these young guys trying to replace eight of nine in your starting lineup. Were you impressed with how they matured through the six weeks of fall?

“It was a lot of ebb and flow throughout the fall. There were spurts where some guys looked really good, other guys were struggling. And then other spurts where the guys who were struggling looked really good and the guys that had been looking good started to struggle a little bit. There’s a few things that have emerged that I think we can count on, or at least going to give it the first shot to count on as we get started. And then there’s other things that will still be in flux when we get started in the spring. Remember, we’ll have three full weeks of practice as a team plus a week and a half of individual work (in the spring) – we do some simulated games and so forth – so a lot can change in terms of the personnel we’re going to count on to start the season during that period of time.

Things that I think we can feel strongly about is I do think Michael Papierski emerged as a clear-cut No. 1 guy (at catcher), but I also think Jordan Romero is going to be a good other option because Papierski can’t catch 56 games. So whether he catches two-thirds or three-quarters, I’m not exactly sure, but the games that Jordan Romero or the second catcher would catch, and I say ‘or the second catcher’ because we didn’t get to see Bryce Jordan catch at all this fall because of the injury. But those games are going to be important as well, so we need to have a good second catcher, but I do think Papierski has shown the propensity to be more of a force at the plate. We knew he was a good defensive catcher, I think he’s emerging as a leader on our team.

Jake Fraley helped LSU go 4-0 last week. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Jake Fraley had the best fall of his career. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

We knew Jake Fraley was going to be a good everyday player, but he went out and had the best fall he’s had in his three years here, so that gives us a lot of optimism that he’s going to take his game to another level.

Really excited about what Greg Deichmann showed this fall. There’s no secret that we need to find some guys to hit in the heart of the order and be run producers for us. Deichmann has shown that he’s got the capability of doing that. Statistically, he had the best stats of the fall. He hit the ball with authority, his swing looked a lot simpler, he’s not swinging and missing as often and he’s having some quality at-bats. And on top of everything else, he’s shown he an play a pretty good defensive second base or first base for us. So we have a little bit of an option there and I don’t think he’s a liability defensively at all — he did a nice job at both of those positions. But the bottom line with Deichmann is, can he swing the bat during the spring season the way that he did during the fall? If he does, it’s going to make us a pretty good team. If he doesn’t, we’re going to have to reevaluate the situation, but I feel strongly that he is going to do that.

I think that Antoine Duplantis has emerged as a potential star in our league. He turned out to be everything I thought he was going to be when we recruited him. He brings the best qualities of both (Mark) Laird and (Andrew) Stevenson. Laird came here with very good hand-eye coordination (and) a very simple swing that would make consistent contact — Duplantis has that. Stevenson came here with some physicalness where he could drive the ball, much more than Laird and Duplantis has that. He also steals bases and we think he’s an outstanding outfielder. I think you have a budding superstar in Duplantis.

I think Beau Jordan has shown he’s capable of being a middle of the order hitter for us, whether it’s in left field as a designated hitter. A lot like Deichmann, I think he deserves a chance to prove he can be a middle of the order guy who’s a run producer for us. I think Kramer Robertson, especially in the last three games (of the Purple-Gold World Series) showed that he could be a force for us. He hadn’t shown that kind of pop. He showed flashes of it, but not for three straight games like he did. Whether or not Kramer proves to be an everyday player will remain to be seen, but he’s going to get an opportunity, I’m sure, and if he does the job and plays at a high level, he becomes an asset for our team as well.

Greg Deichmann. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Greg Deichmann. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

I think those things are for certain. I think Trey Dawson showed that he has the capabilities of making the routine play all day long. His range is a little bit limited and certainly he’s behind with the bat. But first thing’s first, we need to find someone who can make the routine play at (shortstop). That’s something that’s been taken for granted around here for as long as I’ve been here because we’ve had shortstops like Mike Hollander, DJ Lemahieu, Austin Nola and Alex Bregman. But I’ve played that position, I know it’s not an easy position to play. Making those clutch plays, even though they’re routine, I’ve known a lot of teams that haven’t made that play and it’s affected their ability to win. I think Dawson gives us that and hopefully the rest of his game will continue to improve as well.

I think Cole Freeman emerges also as an option at shortstop if Dawson can’t handle it on an everyday basis. He brings a lot of life to the team, has a lot of hustle, quickness and energy, a lot like Tyler Hanover brought to our team a few years ago. He becomes an option at third base, but I do think Chris Reid has emerged and gotten himself into the fight. His skills defensively are adequate and he had one of the best falls of anyone on our team swinging the bat. Can’t deny that he’s got a very sound swing and makes consistent contact and has got a good eye at the plate. He’s not fleet of foot and sometimes he has trouble acclimating himself to the entire college experience, it’s a little big for him right now in terms of being reliable and responsible and those things.”

Q: It seems like you have a list of players who can contribute, but you’re not sure exactly where they fit just yet. Is that where you want to be at the end of the fall, especially with this much youth? 

“I’d like to have options right now. If you had a team coming back like we had last year with a bunch of veterans, not to say it was boring, but you just maintain status quo through fall practice. This fall’s been a lot more exciting, a lot more dynamic. We’ve done a lot more teaching, there’s been a lot more evaluating of what the players can do and what the areas are they need to continue to work on. Like I said, during the ebb and flow of the fall, some guys did well and then some guys didn’t and then the roles are reversed the next week. That’s not all that unusual when you have a lot of new guys, but I don’t think right now is the time to make these decisions. When the bell rings in January and February, you get to start to know the players better.

And I’m not even writing off the guys that had poor falls. For example, Cody Ducote had a very poor fall with the bat, yet when we recruited him, he came to us with the reputation of being the most outstanding hitter out of the city of New Orleans in the last five years. I’m not going to give up on him because he didn’t hit well in the fall. He may come back in January and all of a sudden light it up and be in the mix for a starting spot. Other guys that performed well in the fall might get a little bit of the deer in the headlights look come spring time. We’ve got to let it play out a little.

Q: But that’s not unusual, right? Some guys, like Jake Fraley, had bad falls in their first year but turned it around in spring?

“If I would have judged Fraley based on the fall of his freshman year or Sean McMullen when he came here in the first fall after being at Delgado. If I would have judged those guys based on that, you’d have said they would have never been able to play for us. And yet, Fraley’s career’s still going and McMullen’s career at LSU became really good and he’s playing pro ball, but sometimes it takes people a while to get acclimated. Even the junior college kid who’s a little bit older and has a couple years of college experience, LSU’s a whole different animal.”

Q: Do you like where you’re at now that fall is done?

 “I think we’re in perfect position. Couldn’t be happier. When I think of all the fall practices I’ve had in my time at LSU, I don’t think we’ve gotten more accomplished in any other season than we did this fall. Maybe the fall of 2007 when we were kind of trying to make the move to get back to being relevant again and we brought back a really good recruiting class. I thought we got a lot accomplished. We went over most of the players, but to see all that stuff happen and do as much teaching as we did. Usually fall practice is a little bit of a pain in the neck and it drags, for me it didn’t drag at all. It was exciting for me to see the players work and get better, and I feel like we did. But I still have that little bit of anxiety because these guys still haven’t done it in real games and how are they going to react when the lights go on. We won’t know that until February 19 and beyond, but at this point, I feel like where we are is exactly where we should be. I do think we’re a better team today than we were two months ago and I think we’ll be better when we show back up in January than we are now. I certainly hope we’ll be better when the season begins than we are when we first get back and I hope we’ll be better in April or May than we are in February and March.”

Part I, Q and A with LSU coach Paul Mainieri: Poche, Lange set to lead deep pitching staff into spring

Paul Mainieri and son Tommy watch pregame warmups Monday. (HILARY SCHEINUK | The Advocate)

Paul Mainieri, here with son Tommy, likes his veteran pitching staff after the fall. (HILARY SCHEINUK | The Advocate)

After what he termed one of the more exciting fall practices of his LSU tenure, LSU coach Paul Mainieri sat down with The Advocate to assess where his team is as it heads into final exams and, eventually, home for winter break.

Part I of the interview focuses exclusively on Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn’s veteran staff that returns two weekend arms and has experienced depth in the bullpen. For a second straight season, however, Jake Latz will be sidelined with elbow issues, though a glimmer of hope remains that he could rejoin the mix in April.

The inability to find a third starter was troublesome last season, but Mainieri has high hopes for Austin Bain, who had surgery to remove bone spurs in his shoulder and missed fall practice.

Bain, coupled with a few newcomers, have impressed Mainieri and give him options for a third or fourth starter, along with a stable of bullpen arms.

Part II of our Q and A, where we delve into replacing eight of nine starters in the lineup and how this batch of newcomers adjusted to college ball, will be online Friday afternoon.

Q: You guys have struggled to establish a consistent third starter in the last two seasons. Did anyone separate themselves in the fall as someone who could compete for that role? 

“I don’t think so, not from fall practice. I still think a very strong candidate for the third starter is going to be Austin Bain, and he didn’t pitch at all this fall. But of the guys that threw, certainly returning players, I thought Jake Godfrey at times distinguished himself, but I think the other guys in the mix for it are all new players. John Valek, it seemed like every time he threw he did a good job. He’s not overpowering, but he knows how to pitch. There’s value in that crafty left-hander, but I’ll have to decide if he’s going to be more valuable as a starting pitcher in the midweek or a third starter or is he more valuable coming out of the bullpen as a left-handed option, given the fact that we don’t have that many left-handed options. And then Riley Smith and Caleb Gilbert, one JUCO kid and one freshman, I thought showed a lot of promise. They obviously have good velocity, Caleb came here with a pretty good breaking pitch and I think Riley is developing his breaking pitch. Riley’s got a super changeup already. Caleb already throws strikes, has inordinate poise for a freshman, very intelligent young man. So I think all those guys are still options as we go into the spring.

And (Dunn) and I have kind of discussed some possible scenarios. Remember, the third and fourth starter, whether you’re third or fourth really doesn’t matter in the first three weeks of the season because the midweek games count the same as the weekend games. Sometimes the midweek games may even be a little more challenging because we have road games at Lamar and at Nicholls. We’ve got some challenging midweek games. Once the SEC schedule starts, whoever I feel is the best third starter will pitch on Sunday. But that could mean we might have a guy pitching in the middle of the week or on Sunday in the first three weeks who we also feel is so valuable that we have to move him into the bullpen for the SEC schedule, which means another fourth starter could emerge at some point. I don’t think we have to make those decisions now.”

Q: Speaking on Bain, what gives you so much confidence in him, even though he didn’t throw in the fall?

Austin Bain helped LSU take the series at Carolina.

Though he didn’t throw all fall, Austin Bain is saddled with lofty expectations for the season.

“I think what he’s shown he has in the tank is exciting. There were times last year when he was downright dominant, he was throwing 93-94 mph, good breaking pitch with good arm speed and a nice feel for a changeup. His problem last year was he’d throw outstanding one game and then the next game, his velocity would drop off a lot, he wouldn’t have the same arm speed throwing his breaking ball and his command would take a step backwards. At the time we thought it was him just being a freshman or maybe he didn’t have the focus or concentration. Now, I’m having the feeling it was this Bennett lesion – this bone spur that he had – that probably created some discomfort after he taxed his arm one outing, but he never told us about it so we didn’t have any idea what it might be. Now that he’s had this procedure done, I’m hoping his recovery is more normal and because of that his consistency will be greater. We’ll have to see how it plays out.”

Q: The top two of your pitching staff are pretty locked in. How were Alex Lange and Jared Poche through the fall?

“I thought both of them were outstanding for most of the fall and at times showed they really improved. I think Lange’s ability to throw that changeup will make him better than he was last year. Poche learned to cut his fastball a little bit, which gives him basically a fourth pitch now to go along with his curveball, changeup and fastball. When Poche was throwing in (the Purple-Gold World Series), his velocity was higher than it’d been and he maintained it a little bit, which was exciting.

Alex Lange gets the No. 1 nod this weekend. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Alex Lange will look to follow up on a sensational, 12-0 freshman season. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

The thing you’ve got to guard against is taking any player for granted. They’re not robots, if you cut them, they bleed. There’s no guarantee Alex Lange is going to go 12-0 again in his sophomore year just because he did it in his freshman year, they have to go out there and do it. There’s a saying in coaching ‘If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse’ and so you’re striving constantly to eliminate your shortcomings and continuing to build on your strengths. I didn’t worry about those two guys because of Alan Dunn. He’s such a great pitching coach, I know how he works those guys, there was no way he was going to let either of them let down.”

Q: Parker Bugg seemed like a guy tasked with getting the final outs in tense situations during the Purple-Gold World Series. Is he a guy you’re looking at as a possible closer?

“We wanted him to pitch in that role. I thought he threw the best he has all fall in his two outings in Purple-Gold. Certainly, he’s a candidate, as is Jesse Stallings and we know Hunter Newman is going to be there. Newman pitched great for us last year, pitched great in the summer, great again this fall. Hunter Newman is going to be a very important cog in our bullpen. I think those are three guys we’re going to be able to count on coming out of the bullpen.

What we decide to do with that third or fourth starter is going to have a lot to do with what our bullpen looks like. Does Bain become one of those two starters? Who else are we going to give the first chance to? We haven’t totally decided on that and who we give a chance to start early in the year may end up moving into the bullpen before we go into SEC play and another guy may step in as a fourth starter. I think we have some options there.”

Q: You spoke of Gilbert and Smith, but what other pitching newcomers stood out to you?

“Well (Nick) Bush didn’t because he was hurt the whole fall. He’s coming along great. His surgery wasn’t Tommy John, though it was surgery on his elbow. They had to move a nerve from one side of his elbow to another side. Not as uncommon as you think it is, but it doesn’t have as long a rehab as Tommy John does, so we think he’ll be ready to pitch for us in the spring. Obviously he hasn’t pitched competitively yet, so we don’t know what he’s going to do, but he’s a good athlete with a good arm. We envision him being a guy that could pick up the slack of losing Zac Person.

I think Cole McKay, and I told (Dunn) this at the end of the fall, if you think of Cole McKay of what you expected to see and what you actually saw, you’d probably be disappointed. Everybody talked about him throwing 93-94 but we didn’t see that velocity this fall. But if you look at Cole McKay just in terms of ‘Is he a piece that can help us this spring?’ my quick answer is yes. He threw a lot of strikes, threw some clutch fastball strikes on 3-2 pitches during games and showed real good feel for his curveball I thought. McKay might have a role where he helps us and hopefully continues to develop and get that velocity back to where we hope it can be.”


Observations from Game 3: Purple 3, Gold 2

Purple will serve Gold.

After notching a 3-2 win and sweep of the Purple-Gold World Series, Purple will be waited on by Gold at the LSU baseball team’s annual end of fall dinner.

Here are some observations from the series finale:

The Starters

Delayed for three days due to inclement weather, the series’ premier matchup drew a litany of scouts perched behind home plate to watch Jared Poche and Alex Lange in their final fall appearance.

Poche was dominant for the majority of his outing, sitting around 90-91 mph with the fastball  and hitting 92 mph consistently throughout a first inning where he struck out veterans Kramer Robertson and Jake Fraley. He mixed in the curveball and changeup in his next two innings — getting two of his three outs in the second on the changeup, which sat around 83-85 mph.

He was one hitter away from a perfect outing, but Robertson hammered a two-strike fastball into the left field bleachers with two away in the third. Poche allowed a hard luck single to Brody Wofford before exiting a dominant outing with just the one mistake.

Poche: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 K

Lange followed a similar script, bullying his way through two shutdown innings where he sat anywhere from 92-94 mph with the fastball and showed finesse with a curveball he buried in the dirt at 82-84 mph to elicit swings and misses.

Alex Lange reeled in another honor. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Alex Lange threw well in Monday’s Purple-Gold World Series finale. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

The reigning national Freshman Pitcher of the Year ran into trouble in the third against an impressive string of at-bats from LSU’s newcomers. Lange seemed to lose feel for his secondary pitches — he walked three in the inning — and began to rely solely on the fastball, which wasn’t fooling his teammates. Jordan Romero took a 92 mph fastball off the wall in left for a double before Antoine Duplantis turned on a first-pitch fastball with the bases loaded, coming within a foot of a grand slam, but settling for a 2-RBI double. Lange got himself out of the situation, though, in a play we’ll detail a bit later.

Lange: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

The Offense

We’ve usually reserved this spot for highlighting individual performances, but there were a string of at-bats against Lange in the third inning that merit praise for this young offense.

O’Neal Lochridge, Romero, Brennan Breaux, Duplantis and Greg Deichmann — three freshmen, a junior college transfer and a sophomore — all reached base against Lange in the third, working long at-bats against a pitcher who’d eviscerated the lineup in the two prior innings. Romero got ahead 2-0 and got a pitch to drive for a double after  Lochridge drew a full-count walk. Breaux  drew another full count walk after Lange notched a strikeout. With Breaux aboard, Duplantis just annihilated the first pitch he saw off the top of the wall in right that, with his speed, could have easily been a triple.

Now, for some individual accolades. Stop if you’ve heard this before, but Kramer Robertson put one in the bleachers. He cracked Poche and completely threw him off rhythm, turning on yet another two-strike, inside fastball, which he’s been privy to drive throughout this World Series. LSU hitting coach Andy Cannizaro said Robertson’s swing is the shortest he’s seen it since he’s been on campus, and the junior is in quite the groove while trying to carve consistent playing time.

Mike Papierski launched an opposite-field double in the fourth while Chris Reid and Brody Wofford had singles.

The Defense

As much trouble as Lange had in the third inning, the way he escaped the damage was nothing short of impressive. Facing Bryce Adams, Lange got a bouncer back to the mound. Falling off to the left, Lange managed to stick his glove to the right, snaring the grounder and firing to Papierski at home to begin a nifty 1-2-3 double play and erase a bases-loaded, one-out jam.

Series Recap

Observations from Game 1: Purple 7, Gold 3

Observations from Game 2: Purple 5, Gold 3

Observations from Game 2: Purple 5, Gold 3

Kade Scivicque is now 2-0 in his managing career, thanks in large part to Kramer Robertson, who again provided tie breaking hits in a 5-3 win for Purple on Thursday.

Before we get to observations, a quick note. Due to severe inclement weather forecasted for Friday, Game 3 of the Purple-Gold World Series has been rescheduled for Monday at 6:30 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium.

Now, on to the fun:

The Starters

Purple’s Jake Godfrey looked stellar in his first two innings, and really throughout his whole outing, though he’ll regret one pitch that sullied his line. Godfrey sat 91-93 mph with the fastball, which he threw exclusively in a first inning before mixing in a nice 79 mph curveball in the next two frames. Godfrey pounded the strike zone throughout and kept his power velocity, but hung a first pitch changeup to Greg Deichmann in the third, which was promptly deposited into the right field bleachers for a three-run homer — the first home run of the series.

Godfrey: 3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 K

Jake Godfrey. (PATRICK DENNIS)

Jake Godfrey. (PATRICK DENNIS)

Junior college transfer Riley Smith had a pretty similar outing for Gold — holding at 93-94 mph with the fastball while avoiding much damage until the third. Smith struggled at times in the fall to command his secondary pitches, which was his undoing in the third when Beau Jordan and Mike Papierski each raked 81 mph changeups for back-to-back RBI hits, erasing a 3-1 deficit and ending Smith’s night on a sour note. Smith went exclusively fastball in the first inning, but threw three straight breaking pitches to start the second — all balls.

Smith: 3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 K

The Offense

A day after two tie-breaking hits with runners in scoring position, Kramer Robertson added another, obliterating an inside fastball from Hunter Devall for a mammoth two-run home run in the fourth that cleared the left field bleachers, put Purple up 5-3 and went an estimated 407 feet, according to Trackman.

Before Deichmann took Godfrey deep in the third, he showcased his speed out of the box to beat a slow roller for an infield single in the first and even robbed Robertson of a base hit in the third, ranging nicely behind the bag and making a quick throw on the run.

Jake Fraley roped two hits and stole a base while Brody Wofford had an opposite-field double in the first and split the gap again in the third, only to be thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple thanks to some fundamental, hit the cut-off man baseball from right field.

The Defense

We mentioned Deichmann’s range at second, but Baton Rouge product Chris Reid provided all the defensive theatrics in the first inning. Manning third base for the Purple team, Reid adjusted to dive on Deichmann’s screamer and prevent extra bases, making a strong throw that the speedster just beat out. He ended the inning with more range, charging a slow roller from Cole Freeman and making a nice throw on the run to get the out.

Next up: As we mentioned above, Game 3 is now set for Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Alex Box Stadium. Alex Lange and Jared Poche will start and, by rule, Gold will need to win by seven runs or more if it wants to win the series.

After setback, Jake Latz to have surgery, miss 4-6 months

After seeking a third opinion on his left elbow, sophomore southpaw Jake Latz will undergo surgery and miss four to six months, LSU coach Paul Mainieri said after Thursday’s Purple-Gold World Series game.

Latz suffered a setback with the stress reaction in his 11th fall inning, prompting another MRI, which showed something more similar to a stress fracture. Doctors in Baton Rouge and Chicago recommended surgery, but Latz sought a third opinion from a physician in Detroit, who also recommended he have surgery.


The surgery, which will take place in Baton Rouge, will be scheduled next week.  As Mainieri described it on Tuesday, the surgery would insert a screw into the bone where the stress fracture is located with about a four-to-six month rehab, leaving a glimmer of hope that Latz could return for the Tigers at the end of the spring.

Latz missed all of last season with the same injury – a stress reaction in his left elbow. He tried to rehab the injury in February and March but was ultimately shut down after suffering setbacks then.

An 11th round selection in the 2014 MLB Draft, Latz was the third-highest drafted high school prospect not to sign a pro contract, instead choosing to attend LSU – where he has yet to throw a meaningful pitch.

Latz’s absence means the Tigers now have just three healthy left-handed pitchers — Jared Poche, Hunter Devall and John Valek. A fourth, Nick Bush, is recovering from offseason surgery.

“We’ll be OK,” Mainieri said Monday. “I feel like our staff is going to be deeper than it was last year, but when we recruited Jake Latz, he was really one of the shining guys in our recruiting class, one of the guys we felt had a chance to be extremely special. If he’s going to be out for a prolonged period of time, it would obviously be disappointing to us, but it’s not insurmountable to our team. I really feel worse for Jake.”


Former LSU star JaCoby Jones suspended 50 games for positive drug test

Former LSU standout JaCoby Jones, who was excelling in the prestigious Arizona Fall League and had just been named to its All Star team, was suspended for 50 games Thursday by Major League Baseball for a second failed drug test.

The suspension is without pay and effective immediately. Jones, who was hitting .280 in 12 games in the Arizona Fall League, was slated to play in its Fall Stars Game on Saturday.

Jones, who was traded from the Pirates to the Tigers mid-season, got his second positive test for a “drug of abuse.” A drug of abuse, as defined by Major League Baseball in its Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program, is “any and all drugs or substances included on Schedules I and II of the Code of Federal Regulations’ Schedule of Controlled Substances (“Schedule I or Schedule II”), as amended from time to time.”

Courtesy -- Former LSU 2B JaCoby Jones was suspended for 50 games on Thursday for a second failed drug test.

Courtesy — Former LSU 2B JaCoby Jones was suspended for 50 games on Thursday for a second failed drug test.

In a statement issued shortly after the suspension, Detroit said it recognized “the suspension of JaCoby Jones for violating Minor League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program as a measure taken in the best interest of the game, and the ballclub continues to fully support this policy. The Tigers’ organization will provide no further comment on Jones’ suspension.”

A shortstop since he was drafted in the third round of the 2013 MLB Draft by Pittsburgh, Jones was acquired by Detroit in July near the Trade Deadline and excelled, hitting .250 with six homers, 20 RBI and 10 steals in 37 games at Detroit’s Double-A affiliate, the Erie SeaWolves.

Jones, who was a Freshman All-American at LSU in 2011, started 57 games in 2013 — his final season in Baton Rouge — hitting .294 to garner second-team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches. He may be most fondly remembered for his torrid performance in LSU’s super regional victory over Oklahoma, where he hit .714 with a double, triple and home run to lead LSU back to the College World Series.

Purple/Gold World Series Observations: Purple 7, Gold 3

Under manager Kade Scivicque, Purple defeated Gold, 7-3, in Game One of the annual Purple/Gold World Series on Wednesday.

The results really don’t matter in the long run, but how the teams got there does. Here are a few observations from the evening:

The Starters

Gold’s Caleb Gilbert sat at 93-94 mph — the hardest LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he’s thrown this fall —  consistently throughout a strong first inning, but dipped to 91-92 in his last two innings of work, leading to trouble. It’s not unusual for a true freshman to tire early and to see a bit of a dip,  especially after exerting as much energy as he did in the first where he even hit 95 mph.

“He maxed out in that first inning,” Mainieri said. “I think he was pretty fired up, cutting loose, which was good to see because if I wanted to use him as a relief pitcher for just an inning, it shows he’s got a little more in the tank.”

Gilbert also struggled to put hitters away, surrendering four of his six hits in two-strike counts, including a towering two-RBI double to Kramer Robertson to open the scoring in the second.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK --  Kramer Robertson makes a throw to first during the Purple and Gold World Series, Wednesday, November 4, 2015, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK — Kramer Robertson makes a throw to first during the Purple and Gold World Series, Wednesday, November 4, 2015, at LSU’s Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La.

Southpaw John Valek looked crafty through two no-hit innings for Purple, spinning nothing harder than 86 mph and mixing in what appeared to be a slurve — clocked anywhere from 70-71 mph to face one over the minimum. Valek said he’s down to just one breaking pitch after employing both a slider and curveball at Akron.

He couldn’t make it out of a rough third, which saw him walk a man and issue a seeing-eye single before a mound visit from former Tiger hurler Kevin GausmanAntoine Duplantis turned on Valek’s next pitch for a bases-clearing triple to left-center to end the Akron transfer’s night.

“For me, this is my first time in a real, real game situation with teams split up and everything,” Valek said. “Pitching out here under the lights is second to none in the country. I had a great time.”

The Hitting

Robertson, who’s struggled to find consistent playing time in his first two seasons, did what a veteran’s going to have to do on this young team — come up in the clutch. After his aforementioned double off  Gilbert gave Purple a lead, Robertson repeated in the fifth, crushing a first-pitch double off Russell Reynolds to cash in on a first-and-third situation and break another tie game. Robertson finished with three RBI while Mike Papierski added three hits of his own — the second an RBI double in the third.

Purple finished with 12 hits in the six-inning contest, including two from both Beau Jordan and Chris Reid. Reid hit perhaps the hardest ball of the afternoon, missing a homer by five feet with a bullet to right field for a stand-up double.

Gold, which finished with three hits, got a lift from freshman Antoine Duplantis, who may have lost the team’s 60-yard dash trials to Greg Deichmann, but is still electric on the basepaths. Rounding second on his bases-clearing triple, Duplantis hit another level, beating the throw with ease. Cole Freeman added a two-strike RBI single to round out the scoring.

The Defense

Though he named Fraley his opening night center fielder last week, LSU coach Paul  Mainieri worried the junior hadn’t been tested with any acrobatic catches that Andrew Stevenson made with ease last season.

Fraley passed the first exam on Wednesday, getting a late break on  Freeman’s sinking liner to make a nice sliding catch. It was in a pressure situation, too, with a runner on second and nobody out.

Reid made a nice snag on a liner to third, changing directions to snag Bryce Laird’s screamer in the second while Duplantis and Cody Ducote each added running catches in the outfield.

Next up: Game 2 is Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium, pitting Jake Godfrey against Riley Smith on the mound.


Tigers get commit from Catholic product Nick Coomes

Prior to Game One of the Purple-Gold World Series, LSU landed the verbal commitment  of hometown product Nick Coomes  for its 2016 class.

Coomes, a Catholic High grad and rising sophomore at LSU Eunice, gave his commitment to LSU assistant coach Will Davis inside the LSU dugout on Wednesday. He’d been contacted by Maryland and Southern Miss, but the allure of playing in front of friends and family to fulfill a lifelong dream swayed him to LSU.

Former Catholic High player Nick Coomes committed to LSU prior to the Purple Gold World Series

Former Catholic High player Nick Coomes committed to LSU prior to the Purple Gold World Series

“It’s incredible,” Coomes said. “I’ve always wanted to play here. It’s exciting and something I’ve wanted since I was a kid. I’ve been coming (to Alex Box Stadium) since I was a kid.”

Coomes played with current Tiger Jordan Romero at both Catholic High and at LSU Eunice last season en route to the school’s fifth straight Division II National Junior College Athletic Association World Series title. Coomes had three hits in the championship game.

An All-State third baseman his junior season and catcher in his senior season at Catholic High, Coomes hit .299 with five homers and 39 RBI last season at LSU Eunice.

Catholic coach Brad Bass, an LSU teammate of Davis and coordinator of baseball operations Nolan Cain, projects Coomes as a middle of the order hitter with a bulldog mentality.

“He’s got a football mentality,” Bass said Wednesday. “He plays hard,  the right way. Tremendous pop, hits for both power and average. It’s a good sign for LSU and great for Nick to be part of the Tiger family.”

LSU catcher/infielder Bryce Jordan undergoes MRI on knee

Bryce Jordan had to watch Thursday’s scrimmage on crutches.

The sophomore catcher/infielder suffered a “freak” knee injury Wednesday while playing catch, said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. Jordan had an MRI on his knee Thursday, but Mainieri has not received the results.

Mainieri expects to hear back from doctors Friday.

“I’d hate to speculate what it might be,” Mainieri said. “I’m hoping it’s not the worst-case scenario, which is an ACL, of course. It might be a meniscus issue. Not that it’s minor. It’s something you can bounce back from, but it may cost him fall practice. Best-case scenario, he’s just got a little sprain and will be ready to go in a few days.

“I don’t know if his cleat got caught in the grass or what, but he just twisted his knee and said he felt something pop.”

Before fall camp began Sunday, Mainieri said Jordan and junior college transfer Bryce Adams were the leading contenders at first base. Adams played first base on both the purple and gold teams for most of the scrimmage Thursday.

Junior infielder Cole Freeman briefly left the scrimmage with an apparent hand injury after diving for a ball up the middle. Freeman returned to action the following inning, and Mainieri said “it looks like he’ll be OK.”

LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn wins national award



LSU coach Paul Mainieri constantly trumpets his pitching coach as the best in the nation. Collegiate Baseball agrees.

Alan Dunn was named the National Pitching Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball. Dunn has helped mold a bevy of All-American hurlers while in Baton Rouge, including current ace Alex Lange.

Dunn will receive this award at the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention next January in Nashville.

Collegiate Baseball provided a run-down of highlights from Dunn’s previous four seasons at the school:

  • LSU has had the SEC Pitcher of the Year three years (Kevin Gausman in 2012, Aaron Nola in 2013, and Aaron Nola again in 2014).
  • LSU has had a consensus first team All-American pitcher each of his four years (Kevin Gausman in 2012, Aaron Nola in 2013, Aaron Nola in 2014 and Alex Lange in 2015).
  • LSU has had the National Pitcher of the Year (Aaron Nola in 2014).
  • LSU has had the National Freshman Pitcher of the year (Alex Lange in 2015).
  • LSU has had nine pitchers taken in the major league draft in the last four years (including two first round draft choices and one second round draft choice).
  • In his first year at LSU in 2012, the staff ERA dropped almost a full run from 4.13 to 3.25.
  • In 2013, LSU went to the College World Series with a veteran pitching staff leading the way. LSU lost 7 of its’ top 9 pitchers after the season. Even with this turnover and losing six pitchers from the 2014 staff to season ending injuries and other factors, consider what the 2014 pitching staff accomplished: LSU was No. 1 in the nation with a school-record 17 shutouts; LSU staff was No. 5 in the nation in hits allowed per nine innings (6.99); Tigers were No. 6 in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC in WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched – 1.09); LSU’s team ERA of 2.60 was No. 2 in the SEC and No. 12 in the nation; LSU was No. 1 in the SEC in fewest runs allowed (180).

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