LSU ranked No. 4 in preseason baseball poll

LSU is ranked No. 4 in the 2013 Collegiate Baseball newspaper preseason poll, the Tigers’ highest preseason ranking since 2010, when they began the year at No. 2.

The reigning Southeastern Conference champions are one of five SEC teams ranked in the preseason Top 10, joined by No. 1 Arkansas, No. 3 Vanderbilt, No. 7 South Carolina and No. 8 Kentucky.

LSU’s roster contains 19 lettermen, including nine position players with starting experience and nine pitchers that recorded innings last season. That group is joined by 13 newcomers, including two players that were selected in the 2012 Major League Draft.

Other SEC teams in the Top 40 are No. 13 Mississippi State, No. 24 Florida, No. 25 Ole Miss and  No. 29 Georgia. Southern Mississippi, another LSU opponent this season, is No. 36.

The Tigers begin the season at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 15 versus Maryland in Alex Box Stadium.

LSU completed its six-week fall practice session in November, and the Tigers will begin preseason workouts in late January.

“The No. 4 ranking is certainly a compliment to our program, but we realize we can’t just pick up this season where last season ended,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said in a news release. “We have a lot of work to do to get where we need to be at the end of the season, and we feel like we have a talented ball club with a very experienced pitching staff.

“I think the fall practice period demonstrated that we can be outstanding in all phases of the game – hitting, pitching and defense. We had a very good fall, and I’m convinced we’ll be in the hunt for everything we’d like to accomplish this spring.”

LSU features several all-star candidates, including senior outfielder Raph Rhymes, the 2012 SEC Player of the Year, senior all-SEC outfielder/first baseman Mason Katz and sophomore pitcher Aaron Nola, a 2012 first-team Freshman all-American.

Other returning position players include junior second baseman JaCoby Jones, junior catcher Ty Ross, senior outfielder Alex Edward, sophomore outfielder Chris Sciambra, sophomore infielder Tyler Moore, senior infielder Casey Yocom and sophomore outfielder Jared Foster.

Nola is joined by a group of experienced pitchers, including junior right-handers Ryan Eades, Kurt McCune and Nick Rumbelow; senior left-handers Chris Cotton and Brent Bonvillain; and senior right-handers Joey Bourgeois and Kevin Berry.