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Tigers ranked No. 7 in D1Baseball.com Preseason Poll

(HILARY SCHEINUK)

(HILARY SCHEINUK)

Three weeks after it debuted as No. 7 in the nation’s first preseason poll, the LSU baseball team was ranked in the same position in D1Baseball.com’s preseason rankings released Tuesday.

The Tigers, looking to replace eight of nine everyday starters from a team that advanced to the College World Series, came in at No. 7 in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll in late December. Alex Lange and Jared Poche were also named to the newspaper’s preseason All-American team a day later.

Lange and outfielder Jake Fraley, the only everyday starter returning from last season, were named Perfect Game preseason All-Americans on Monday.

Florida, also No. 1 in Collegiate Baseball, was No. 1 in D1Baseball.com’s poll, one of three SEC teams ahead of LSU.

Here is the full D1Baseball.com Poll, with records reflecting last year’s results and teams’ 2015 final ranking just beside their records:

1 Florida 52-18 3 SEC
2 Louisville 47-18 8 ACC
3 Vanderbilt 51-21 2 SEC
4 Texas A&M 50-14 10 SEC
5 Oregon State 39-18 23 Pac-12
6 Miami 50-17 6 ACC
7 LSU 54-12 5 SEC
8 Oklahoma State 38-20 17 Big 12
9 California 36-21 NR Pac-12
10 N.C. State 36-23 24 ACC
11 UCLA 45-16 12 Pac-12
12 Southern California 39-21 21 Pac-12
13 Virginia 44-24 1 ACC
14 Oregon 38-25 NR Pac-12
15 Mississippi State 24-30 NR SEC
16 North Carolina 34-24 NR ACC
17 South Carolina 32-25 NR SEC
18 Louisiana-Lafayette 42-23 16 Sun Belt
19 TCU 51-15 4 Big 12
20 Florida State 44-21 14 ACC
21 Cal State Fullerton 39-25 7 Big West
22 Houston 43-20 22 American
23 Texas 30-27 NR Big 12
24 Coastal Carolina 39-21 NR Big South
25 Arkansas

 

Lange, Fraley named Perfect Game Preseason All-Americans

Alex Lange pitched a gem Saturday. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Alex Lange picked up another preseason honor. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Alex Lange picked up his second preseason All-American honor on Monday when Perfect Game named him one of 17 first team selections. Tiger outfielder Jake Fraley was named to the third team.

The reigning National Freshman of the Year, Lange was 12-0 in 17 starts of a dominant first season, striking out 131 in 114 innings with a 1.97 ERA.

“Lange performed more along the lines of a junior rather than somebody who was getting their first taste of SEC baseball,” Perfect Game analyst Jheremy Brown wrote of his selection to the First Team. “Lange has refined his command since his prep days in Missouri and is transforming into a premier draft talent due to his advanced three-pitch mix that includes one of the better breaking balls in the country and his comfort filling up the zone.”

Fraley, the only returning full-time position player from last season’s College World Series team, hit .307 while slugging .427 and stealing 23 bases.

Lange and fellow starting pitcher Jared Poche were named Louisville Slugger All-Americans in December, as chosen by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, which also ranked the Tigers No. 7 in their preseason poll.

 

Alan Dunn presented National Pitching Coach of the Year award

Fourth year LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn was presented the 2015 National Pitching Coach of the Year award Saturday in Nashville.

Dunn’s 2015 staff, headed by SEC Freshman of the Year Alex Lange, was second in the conference with a 2.98 ERA and a .230 batting average against. His 2014 staff set a new school record with 17 shutouts.

“From the time (Dunn) walked on to our campus and began working with our pitchers, it was clear there was going to be big, positive changes to the way our pitchers approached their jobs,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said in a school statement. “He just has a way about him where he is demanding but very positive with the guys. They respond to him as well as any pitching coach I have ever seen.”

John Pinkman, chairman of the National Pitching Coach of the  Year Award, presents LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn with the award.

John Pinkman, chairman of the National Pitching Coach of the Year Award, presents LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn with the award, alongside LSU coach Paul Mainieri

The former Baltimore Orioles minor league pitching coordinator, Dunn has coached more than 25 players that have advanced to the Major Leagues, including former LSU starters Kevin Gausman and Aaron Nola.

In Dunn’s four-year tenure, LSU has had 10 pitchers selected in the MLB Draft.

“This is such a deserving award,” Mainieri said, “and I’m happy to see that he has been officially identified as what I have said about him time and time again, that he is the best pitching coach in America.”

Transfer Jake Godfrey commits to Arizona State for 2017

Exactly one month after LSU announced he was transferring, Jake Godfrey committed to Arizona State for its 2017 recruiting class.

Godfrey, who left LSU after the fall semester, will spend the remainder of his sophomore year at Northwest Florida State Junior College before joining the Sun Devils in 2017.

The right-handed pitcher announced the news on Twitter.

 

Godfrey,  the third member of LSU’s No. 1 ranked, 2014 recruiting class to transfer, began last season as the Tigers’ third starter, making nine starts and 21 appearances while going 7-1 with a 4.61 ERA in 54.2 innings.

 

Poche, Lange named Preseason All-Americans

Alex Lange reeled in another honor. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Alex Lange reeled in another honor. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Alex Lange and Jared Poche were named Louisville Slugger Preseason All-Americans on Tuesday, one day after their team was pegged No. 7 in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll.

The newspaper also chooses the All-American team, which also featured UL-Lafayette second baseman Stefan Trosclair as a First Team selection.

A first team selection and reigning National Freshman of the Year,   Lange was 12-0 in 17 starts of a stellar first season where he struck out 131 in 114 innings with a 1.97 ERA. He was dominant throughout fall practice, sitting as high as 94 mph with his fastball while burying a breaking ball anywhere from 82-84 mph.

JAred Poche struggled Thursday night. (ANDY SHUPE)

Jared Poche  (ANDY SHUPE)

Poche, who was selected to the second team, was 9-2 with a 3.05 ERA as LSU’s Friday night starter last season. He was the starter in both the regional and super regional clinching games en route to LSU’s College World Series appearance.

Poche and Lange each threw three innings in the final fall scrimmage of the season, notching six combined strikeouts while allowing three earned runs.

 

Tigers No. 7 in Collegiate Baseball preseason poll

(HILARY SCHEINUK)

(HILARY SCHEINUK)

LSU, which is tasked with replacing eight of nine everyday starters in its batting order, checked in at No. 7 in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll released Monday morning.

The Tigers, who were ranked No. 1 in the newspaper’s poll for seven straight weeks to close last season, had a successful fall season while mixing in the abundance of youth that will need to step in for the eight departed starters.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri detailed the work of a veteran pitching  staff in the offseason with the emergence of some young stars hopeful to bolster the lineup  in an extensive twopart post-fall interview with The Advocate.

“The release of the preseason rankings always generates a lot of excitement, and it means the season is less than two months away”  Mainieri said Monday morning in a school news release. “Four SEC teams in the Top 7 and nine league teams in the Top 35 are indications of how balanced and competitive the conference race will be.

“The fact that we’re ranked No. 7 is sign of respect for our program, considering we have to replace so many players from last year’s lineup. We’re proud of the recognition, now it’s our job to uphold our tradition of excellence.”

Fellow SEC foe Florida is at No. 1, perennial power Vanderbilt is two spots below at No. 3 and UL-Lafayette, the team LSU knocked off last season to advance to the College World Series, is one spot ahead of the Tigers at No. 6.

Tulane, which made its first trip to the postseason since 2008 in last season’s Baton Rouge Regional, is No. 19. Southeastern Louisiana was also receiving votes.

The full poll is here. Records reflect the end of last season:

  1. Florida (52-18) 495
  2. Louisville (47-18) 492
  3. Vanderbilt (51-21) 489
  4. Miami, Fla. (50-17) 487
  5. Texas A&M (50-14) 484
  6. Louisiana-Lafayette (42-23) 483
  7. Louisiana St. (54-12) 481
  8. Oregon St. (39-18-1) 480
  9. Virginia (44-24) 475
10. UCLA (45-16) 473
11. Mississippi St. (24-30) 469
12. Cal. St. Fullerton (39-25) 467
13. California (36-21) 466
14. Oregon (38-25) 463
15. Texas Christian (51-15) 461
16. Florida St. (44-21) 460
17. Missouri St. (49-12) 457
18. Houston (43-20) 455
19. Tulane (35-25) 453
20. Rice (37-22) 451
21. Georgia Tech. (32-23) 449
22. North Carolina (34-24) 446
23. Michigan (39-25) 444
24. Arkansas (40-25) 443
25. Oklahoma St. (38-20) 438
26. Stony Brook (35-16-1) 436
27. Notre Dame (37-23) 434
28. Maryland (42-24) 432
29. Kentucky (30-25) 430
30. Pepperdine (32-29) 427
31. Dallas Baptist (46-15) 425
32. College of Charleston (45-15) 423
33. Coastal Carolina (39-21) 421
34. Missouri (30-28) 419
35. South Carolina (32-25) 417
36. San Diego St. (41-23) 414
37. South Alabama (37-20) 411
38. Winthrop (40-19) 409
39. Texas Tech. (31-24) 407
40. Texas (30-27)

Jake Godfrey to transfer from LSU

Jake Godfrey. (PATRICK DENNIS)

Jake Godfrey. (PATRICK DENNIS)

LSU right-hander Jake Godfrey will transfer from the program, the school confirmed Thursday afternoon.

Godfrey, who went through the team’s post-fall “Omaha Challenge” this week, made the LSU coaching staff aware of his decision on Wednesday. He will transfer at the conclusion of the fall semester, the school said.

“Jake has expressed to me his desire to transfer, and my understanding is that he would like to enroll and pitch at a junior college,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said in a statement. “We wish him the best as he continues his baseball career.”

The school said the statement would be the only comment Mainieri gave on the matter. Godfrey did not return multiple requests for comment.

Godfrey, who began last season as LSU’s third starter, made nine starts and 21 appearances last season, going 7-1 with a 4.61 ERA in 54.2 innings.

He flashed a 91-93 mph fastball with a 79 mph curveball this fall, excelling in his start during Game 2 of the Purple-Gold World Series, where a three-run homer to Greg Deichmann was his only blip on an otherwise solid three-inning outing.

But with two rotation spots virtually locked up by returners Jared Poche and Alex Lange, a battle was on for the final spot, which Mainieri hinted could belong to Austin Bain in an extensive post-fall interview with The Advocate.

Bain is returning from offseason surgery for bone spurs in his throwing shoulder. Mainieri also mentioned newcomers Riley Smith, Caleb Gilbert and John Valek as potential weekend rotation fits.

In that same interview, however, Mainieri said Godfrey “at times distinguished himself” throughout the fall.

Godfrey now becomes the third member of LSU’s No. 1 ranked, 2014 recruiting class to transfer. Highly-touted lefty Mac Marshall abruptly left for a junior college in October of 2014 while Grayson Byrd, son of former LSU legend Paul Byrd, left after his freshman season.

A fourth member of that class, lefty Jake Latz, hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Tigers due to lingering elbow issues. He had surgery Nov. 9 to try and finally correct the problem and Mainieri has maintained hope Latz could begin throwing in April.

 

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