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On The Record: LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri

Paul Mainieri enters season No. 10 at LSU. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Paul Mainieri enters season No. 10 at LSU. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

By Marcus Rodrigue

As the LSU baseball team gears up for the start of fall practice Sept. 27, coach Paul Mainieri chatted with The Advocate about what he expects from the squad.

The Tigers lost all but one everyday starter from last year, and Mainieri will rely on several young players to step in at the vacated positions. The coach said finding a quality shortstop is the first priority and that the rest of the infield will fall into place once that’s accomplished.

LSU is also in need of a reliable third and fourth starting pitcher after it experienced inconsistency from those positions in 2014. Mainieri, however, speculated this year’s pitching staff might be the deepest he has ever coached.


Q: Do you like what you’ve seen from your players in individual drills?

Mainieri: The pitchers, all they’ve done so far is work with Alan Dunn in the bullpen. I do like what I’ve seen, I will say that. There haven’t been hitters in there, it’s not under a competitive situation. But all indications are that we’re going to have a very strong pitching staff.

Of course, they’re led by (Alex) Lange and (Jared) Poché. But the guys that are a year older seem to have a different aura about them. They’re more mature, more confident and lead you to believe that they’re gonna be better. I’m talking about guys like (Jake) Godfrey, (Doug) Norman and (Jesse) Stallings.

One of the encouraging things is thus far Jake Latz looks completely healthy. The ball has been coming out of his hand really good. He looks good. One of the main guys that we’ll count on in the spring, Austin Bain, is out for the fall. He had a procedure done on his shoulder, but we don’t think it’ll be a long-term effect on him. It wasn’t what people might consider major surgery on his shoulder — a rotator cuff or a labrum tear, something like that. He didn’t have that. He had something that just kinda needed to be cleaned up. We think he’ll be ready to go in January.

The pitchers have looked really good. The position players, the first two weeks of individual practice what we focused on was letting them all have time with Andy Cannizaro to look at their mechanics and try to impart an approach, a philosophy about hitting. Andy had a lot of good, quality individual time. The next two weeks, we’re doing more of team fundamentals. How to line up cutoffs, and things like that. So when we play the scrimmage game on the 27th, it won’t look like helter-skelter out there.

People will actually have an idea of what we’re doing. But up to this point, everything has looked good. The first four weeks before we can start practice is a very intense strength training and conditioning time with our new strength coach, Travis Roy, as well.

The guys look like they’re in good shape, very athletic-looking. But until we get started with practice and the scrimmages, you don’t know exactly what you have.

Q: What are some things you’re hoping to learn about your team and sort out during fall practice?

LSU must replace Alex Bregman, the No. 2 pick in the draft. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

LSU must replace Alex Bregman, the No. 2 pick in the draft. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Mainieri: Our first priority is to determine the shortstop position, not just for the fact that Alex Bregman was one of the best players in the country and one of the best we’ve ever had at LSU. But the shortstop position itself is always so key.

It’s kinda your quarterback out there on defense. So we need to figure out first of all who’s going to be our shortstop. Once we figure out our shortstop, then we’re gonna figure out third base. Once we figure out third base, we’ll figure out second base. I believe the left side of the infield is the most critical because those positions are the most challenging to play. It takes a unique skill set to play on the left side of the infield. And we’ve had a tradition and history of really good left-side-of-the-infield infielders. That’s got to be our priority. It’s shortstop, then third and then second.

I think with our catching situation, we know who the top two guys are. We’re just gonna let those two guys battle it out all fall. But we’re gonna use two players there — Jordan Romero and Michael Papierski. The three shortstop candidates are Trey Dawson, Cole Freeman and Kramer Robertson. Like I said, as it starts to narrow down one guy will slide to third, one guy will slide to second and get into the competition at those particular positions.

We have two other infielders in O’Neal Lochridge and Greg Deichmann that we’ll be taking a good look at at third base while we’re looking at the shortstop. And then we’ll compare the backup shortstop to how those guys are looking. It’s kind of a sequential thing.

The outfield, obviously we’ve got to replace two-thirds of our outfield. We’ll take a good, hard look at Jake Fraley in centerfield and see how he looks out there. But I’m excited about two freshman outfielders as well — Brennan Breaux and Antoine Duplantis, both boys from Lafayette. They both can run very well. When we get into the games and they have opportunities to make plays, we’re gonna see who can run down and give us the closest resemblance to Mark Laird and Andrew Stevenson out there.

So we’ve got a lot of things that we need to do. I’m very high on our pitching staff. But to define roles with those guys, one thing we’re gonna do this fall that’s a little different than what we’ve done in past years is we’re gonna try to extend our pitchers a little bit longer in hopes that we can develop a third and fourth starter to complement Lange and Poché. Sometimes you can get a false positive in the fall because they’re only pitching an inning or two innings. Whereas, if you get to throw four or five innings and the lineup turns over a couple of times, do they have the repertoire to get the same hitter out three times with their repertoire of pitches? So we’ll get a better indication that way.

Q: Who do you see out there at first and second base?

Mainieri: Again, second base is gonna be after we’ve figured out short and third. It could be any of those backup shortstops or one of those third basemen that’s getting over at second base. The top infielders, in no particular order are Kramer Robertson, Greg Deichmann, who are returning players, and then three new players: Trey Dawson, Cole Freeman and O’Neal Lochridge. Those five guys are the candidates for all three positions. But I’ve already narrowed down shortstop to three of the five. Once it gets narrowed down to two or to one, now that other guy or two guys will slide over to third or second. We’re gonna utilize the best three of those five guys and then figure out who the utility infielders will be.



At first base, now there’s two guys working out over there: Bryce Jordan and Bryce Adams. But we can always put somebody at first base, as well. First base, quite frankly, is the easiest position to play on the field. You could take third baseman or and infielder and teach him to play first base and do a pretty good job, I think. If you take infielder skills and put them at first base, they’re going to be fine over there. That’s a position that is important defensively, but it’s not important enough defensively that we can sacrifice offense.

It may end up going to the guy who produces the best offensively and is adequate enough defensively. We could also throw a kid named Brody Wofford into the mix there. He’s a freshman that we’re looking at first and then the outfield as well.

Q: When you go into the fall, do you have an idea of who will be hitting where, or is that something you let play out throughout the fall?

Mainieri: The first thing you have to do is figure out who your best nine players are, and then figure out what the order may look like. But there are certain guys that you go into it thinking, ‘These are potential middle-of-the-order guys. These are potential table-setters.’

I didn’t mention a kid named Cody Ducote nor did I mention Beau Jordan. Both of those guys are candidates for left field or DH, but also candidates to hit in the middle of the order. A kid like Greg Deichmann, if he hits, is a candidate for the middle of the order because he’s a powerful guy. He’s probably got the most power on our team. But I don’t spend too much time worrying about the order of the lineup until I figure out what names are going to be in the lineup.

Q: As a coach with so many first-year guys who will have to play some really big roles on this team, do you coach differently?

Mainieri: We’ve spent the first 10 minutes of this interview talking about personnel. The biggest decision we’ll have to make is which personnel are gonna be the guy we’re going to count on. But part of counting on certain personnel is how do they play the game, as well.

Take ‘the LSU way,’ so to speak. As the leader of the program, I have to establish a philosophy about a style of play and so forth. Basically my attitude about the style of play is defensively, we want to force the other team to earn everything they get. We want to play very steady defense. We want to make the routine plays, hit the cutoff man, be able to throw base-stealers out with our catchers, not throw wild pitches and block balls in the dirt, turn the double-plays when we have a chance. Then offensively, I like to attack, attack, attack. Put the pressure on the other team, and hopefully they succumb to the constant pressure that we put on them offensively. That’s just my basic coaching philosophy.

Part of fall practice is evaluating the personnel, but also the second part is to teach them how to play in a style that we want them to play. What is important to us as the coaching staff, we have to impart that on the players and make it important to them, as well. They have to take pride in their defense. They have to be aggressive, confident hitters. They have to learn to steal bases, that kind of stuff. So it kinda works together.

As you’re evaluating the personnel, you’re coaching them and teaching them. The ones that can take the coaching and then apply it, plus they have the talent, they’re the ones that eventually emerge and become your everyday players.

Q: Have you ever coached a team that’s this young?

Mainieri: I don’t know. I’d have to think back because this is my 34th year of coaching. I can’t recall having to replace eight starting players from one year to the next. It may have happened somewhere along the line, but I can’t recall it. But at the same time, I do recall very vividly playing as many as three freshmen in the starting lineup.

We did it in 2013 and went to Omaha with Bregman, Stevenson and Laird. We did it ‘09 with Tyler Hanover, Austin Nola and Mikie Mahtook, and we went to Omaha there as well. So I’m not overly concerned about playing young players. I kinda laugh when I hear coaches around the country make an excuse about the team being so young. Well, what do you expect? You don’t get to sign the players for 10-year contracts. You’re gonna have turnover.

We were really young on the mound last year, and before the season I made a correlation to my 2002 Notre Dame team. Three of our top four pitchers were freshmen, and we went to Omaha with that team with a veteran in lineup. Well, in 2015 we went to Omaha with a young pitching staff and a veteran lineup. Yet if you gave me a choice, I’d rather have veteran pitchers and young lineup. You’re never gonna hear any excuses uttered out of my mouth. We’ve just got to get these guys ready to play and ready to play quickly.

Q: What’s the biggest thing you look for from guys during fall practice. Is it consistency?

Mainieri: When you have so many new players, you have to see what their skills are on a consistent basis. Can a shortstop make the routine play on an extremely consistent basis? He has to make the routine play almost all the time. When that pitcher makes a good pitch and gets a weak ground ball to short, we’ve gotta have the shortstop make that play. It’s gotta be an out. They seem so routine to the people in the stands, but believe it or not, a lot of teams don’t have a shortstop.

We’ve been spoiled here at LSU with DJ LeMahieu, Nola and Bregman for the last eight years. But that’s not anything I ever take for granted. I know how difficult that position is to play. The first thing you want to do is evaluate their skills, but the consistency of their skills is part of that evaluation. You’ve gotta figure out which guy looks like he can hit the ball in the gap or out of the ball park. Which guy can hit in the clutch, which guys are good baserunners and base-stealers. You want to evaluate their skill set and what they apply consistently.

Kramer Robertson will compete at shortstop. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Kramer Robertson will compete at shortstop. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Also, with two players of equal ability, I’ll take the smarter players every time. The guy that can think on his feet and his instincts for the game and applies the coaching that you give to him so you know what you’re gonna get when you put him out on the field, that’s another big factor that you look at. When you look at the pitchers, you want to see which guys are going to throw the ball over the plate with a high degree of consistency. Which pitchers have out pitches that could be in the role coming out of the bullpen where we need a strikeout. Can you bring this guy in in the middle of an inning?

The first thing is to establish a starting rotation, but you’ve gotta have a pitcher that has at least three quality pitches, and he’s got to be able to stop the running game fielding his position and have some endurance. When you look for a closer, you’re looking for a guy that has at least one, if not two, dominant pitches to be able to shut down the other team at the end of the game, but also has the poise and composure. They don’t have the pressure that they’re gonna have on them in the spring because you’re not filling the stadium and playing the other teams in the SEC where the stakes are high, so as coaches we have to try to create the pressure by different means. And hopefully you see how the players react when you put pressure on them.

Q: You haven’t handed out roles yet and are still looking for your third and fourth starters, but do you have an idea of who will those key guys coming out of the bullpen?

Mainieri: I think the first thing we need to do is figure out that third and fourth starter. But the closer, the end-of-the-game pitching is just as important as those starters. But I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out the guys who did some really good things for us out of the pen last year. You look at guys like Hunter Newman, Parker Bugg and Jesse Stallings in particular, I thought those three guys were real mainstays for us out of the bullpen.

Obviously Stallings was pretty much a one-pitch pitcher, albeit that one pitch was pretty good. A 95-mph fastball. But he has to develop his secondary pitchers, and it has been shown that to get through SEC hitters at the end of the game, you’ve gotta be able to mix up your pitches a little bit. But Hunter Newman was terrific last year in his role. Parker Bugg was terrific last year in his role. You assume that as long as they’re as good as they were last year or have improved from that, they’re probably gonna be guys that we really count on.

And then you look at the other returning pitchers I mentioned before. Godfrey, Norman, Latz — though he didn’t pitch last year, he’s a returning guy — Austin Bain, of course I’m not even mentioning Lange and Poche’ because they were such mainstays for us. But you look at those four guys and then you think about guys like Cole McKay, John Valek. Could they be guys that could step in?

I can tell you already from just watching bullpens, we already are getting pretty high on a kid named Riley Smith and another kid named Caleb Gilbert. These guys have thrown the ball extremely well in the side sessions, with good velocity and strikes. Knock on wood, but I’d be surprised if this is not the deepest staff I’ve ever experienced in a long time, if ever. Deep and quality, too. Not just numbers. Deep, power arms, guys who can throw strikes.

I saw this all the time, but we have the greatest pitching coach in America working with these kids. You can see every time they go out there, they just continue to improve with each passing outing. Their confidence grows, and their secondary pitches get better. It’s really exciting to think about how good our pitching staff is. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said a thousand times: if you have a great pitching staff, in order for the results to be great, you have to play great defense behind them. So that’s the first goal, to figure out how we can put a good defensive team out there behind these pitchers.

How’d LSU baseball players perform in summer ball? We have answers



LSU baseball players are reporting to campus this week after most of them participate in summer ball.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri and his staff put an emphasis on summer ball, and good performances over the summer can lead to starting jobs, a playing time increase and more. Individual drills begin next week, and fall practice starts Sept. 27:

Here are the highlights from the Tigers’ summer league play:

Jake Fraley, Jr. OF (Cape Cod League – Chatham)

  • Games Played: 21
  • Avg: .302
  • Extra-base hits: 6

Jake Godfrey, So. RHP (Cape Cod League – Chatham)

  • Appearances: 6
  • ERA: 2.41
  • Innings Pitched: 18. 2
  • Strikeouts: 18

Hunter Newman, Jr. RHP (Cape Cod League – Harwich)

  • ERA: 2.11
  • Innings Pitched: 17
  • Strikeouts: 11
  • Hits: 6
Kramer Robertson (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Kramer Robertson (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Kramer Robertson, Jr. INF (Cape Cod League – Wareham)

  • Avg: .310
  • Runs Scored: 10

Doug Norman, So. RHP (Cape Cod League – Bourne)

  • ERA: 3.56
  • Innings Pitched: 17.2
  • Strikeouts-Walks: 15-5

Collin Strall, Jr. RHP (Northwoods League – St. Cloud)

  • ERA: 4.28
  • Innings Pitched: 21
  • Strikeouts-Walks: 12-9

Mike Papierski, So. C (Northwoods League – Eau Claire)

  • Avg: .156
  • RBI: 7
  • Games Played: 23

Greg Deichmann, So. INF (Northwoods League – Lakeshore)

  • Avg: .239
  • Home Runs: 5
  • RBI: 32
  • Games Played: 64

Bryce Jordan, So. INF/C (Northwoods League – Wisconsin)

  • Avg: .308
  • Games Played: 29
  • Extra-base Hits: 5

Beau Jordan, So. OF (Northwoods League – Wisconsin)

  • Avg: .227
  • Games Played: 42
  • Extra-base Hits: 6

Jesse Stallings, So. RHP (Alaska League – Anchorage)

  • ERA: 2.38
  • Innings Pitched: 11.1
  • Strikeouts-Walks: 8-6

Troy Whitty, So. RHP (Texas League – Acadiana)

  • ERA: 2.68
  • Innings Pitched: 22
  • Strikeouts: 24

Paul Byrd suggests son’s transfer from LSU involved relationship with coach Paul Mainieri

Grayson Byrd started four games for LSU last season. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Grayson Byrd started four games for LSU last season. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Former LSU pitcher Paul Byrd said his son Grayson transferred from LSU because he wasn’t the preferred “player type” for coach Paul Mainieri and Mainieri’s “style of communication” wasn’t translating with his son.

Paul Byrd released the statement on Friday a couple of hours after Grayson emailed a statement, saying he left because he “was no longer having fun playing the game.”

The two statements came a day after Mainieri addressed Byrd’s transfer from LSU, which was announced earlier this week.

Comments from Mainieri and Paul Byrd suggest that Grayson and the coach were not a good match.

Paul Byrd’s statement:


Grayson Byrd’s departure was an abrupt one that left swirling questions about a player who was one of LSU’s top reserves last season, a guy many felt would challenge for one of the four open infield spots.

In his statement, Grayson Byrd said he will miss LSU’s fans and his old teammates and said the school was “not the right fir for me.”


Byrd, a freshman last season, didn’t complete his summer ball season after suffering a sore arm, Mainieri said. The coach said he didn’t make coaches aware of the injury until recently, and he visited his own doctor before calling Mainieri with the transfer news.

Mainieri was, at first, surprised by the news of the transfer, but he eventually understood the move, he said Thursday at a press conference introducing the 2015 signing class.

“Sometimes a place just is not the right fit for some people. Maybe his style of play didn’t fit what I expect out of players, and he knows that and recognized that and maybe he just felt he could be happier playing in a different situation,” he said. “We ask a lot of our players here. It’s a lot of pressure on these kids from the coaches, media, public. Some kids thrive in that environment, and other kids it’s not quite the right thing for them.”

LSU pitcher Austin Bain has shoulder surgery; Latz joins summer league

LSU rising sophomore pitcher Austin Bain had shoulder surgery and will miss fall practice, while lefty Jake Latz has showed “encouraging” signs to returning, coach Paul Mainieri said Thursday.

Austin Bain is out for fall practice. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Austin Bain is out for fall practice. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

In introducing his 2015 signing class, Mainieri announced the news on his pair of significant hurlers.

Bain, a former Dutchtown star, started six games last season and finished with a 3.95 ERA. He was expected to compete for a starting spot next season.

“We don’t think it’s serious,” Mainieri said of Bain’s injury.

Bain has battled a sore arm since his high school days and had a bone spur in his shoulder, the coach said. Mainieri said he had the same surgery as Troy Whitty and Hunter Newman. Both have returned to pitching and are “pain free,” Mainieri said.

“Bain was inconsistent (last season),” the coach said. “Maybe his inconsistency was because of that need for surgery. We didn’t realize that at that time.”

Latz, one of the Tigers’ most highly-rated 2014 signees, missed last season with a stress reaction in his elbow. His rehabilitation – on its fifth month – is winding down.

Latz, who turned down $900,000 in the 2014 draft, threw a 75-pitch simulated game recently and has joined a Chicago-area summer league. He will throw in his first game Friday, the coach said.

Mainieri watched Latz throw in the simulated game and called it “encouraging.” Latz’s velocity dropped off significantly after the first inning, but his curveball and changeup were solid, Mainieri said. Coaches are hoping that Latz will be available for fall practice and can compete for a weekend starting spot in the spring.

Fall practice begins Sept. 27.

Fall battles

The Tigers must replace eight of nine starters from last year’s team. Overwhelming? Not so, Mainieri said Thursday.

“I look at it as a challenge,” he said. “I’m excited about it.”

Mainieri outlined some of LSU’s fall position battles, including the fight for shortstop, third base and second base. The coach plans to try four players at shortstop early during fall individual drills, before team practice begins. The four include signees Trey Dawson, Cole Freeman and O’Neal Lochridge, and junior Kramer Robertson.

“We’re going to look at them all at shortstop. When we decipher who we think the best two shortstops are, we’ll leave those two guys there and we’ll move the other guys to second and third base respectively,” the coach said.

Greg Deichmann, former Brother Martin standout and LSU rising sophomore, will also be competing at third base.

Greg Deichmann. (HILARY SCHEINUK )

Greg Deichmann. (HILARY SCHEINUK )

At first base, Mainieri mentioned Bryce Jordan, a sophomore and reserve player in 2015, and signees Bryce Adams and Brody Wofford.

The coach will “look at” left fielder Jake Fraley, the only returning starter, at center field, he said. Mainieri described the catcher competition as a “two-horse race” between Michael Papierski and signee Jordan Romero, a Catholic High grad from LSU-Eunice.

Mainieri committed to developing third starter

Coaches are “committed” to developing a No. 3 and, maybe, No. 4 starting pitcher this season, Mainieri said.

The Tigers never found a third starter last season, using a hodgepodge of arms during Game 3s of series and during midweek games. That’ll change in 2016, the coach said.

“We have got to develop a third starter this year,” Mainieri said. “It’s been proven now in the postseason when you face teams of the caliber that you face in regionals or world series, it’s really a tough way to win a game. All it takes is one or two pitchers to have a bad inning.”

Sophomores Jake Godfrey, Doug Norman and Bain are expected to lead the list of players competing for starting gigs. Each spent a brief time as a starting pitcher last season before being relegated to the bullpen. All three hurlers, including Godfrey, will be considered for a starting job, the coach said.

LSU’s signing class includes five pitchers, highlighted by big right-hander Cole McKay from Texas and Akron transfer John Valek, who is immediately eligible.

“Somebody’s going to develop over the course of this fall and early spring and hopefully we’re going to have a good three, four man rotation and we’ll use the other guys in specific roles,” Mainieri said.

Top of the class

Mainieri called signee Cody Ducote the “best pure hitter” in the class.

Ducote is serving only as a designated hitter this summer while resting a sore shoulder, Mainieri said. The coach is unsure if Ducote’s arm will recover for him to compete for the two open outfield positions.

Sophomore Beau Jordan and a pair of signees from Lafayette – Brennan Breaux and Antoine Duplantis – are expected to battle in the outfield.

Grayson Byrd. (HILARY SCHEINUK )

Grayson Byrd. (HILARY SCHEINUK )

‘Not enjoying LSU’

Grayson Byrd delivered a message to Mainieri when he told the coach he would be transferring: I’m not having fun.

“He said, ‘Coach, I’m just not enjoying being at LSU. I’m just not having fun,'” Mainieri said.

The coach announced earlier this week that Byrd and Danny Zardon were transferring from the program. Byrd’s transfer surprised Mainieri. He’s the son of Paul Byrd, the former star LSU and major league pitcher, and he was expected to compete for a starting infield spot this fall.

LSU picks up transfer pitcher John Valek

John Valek’s pitching coach called him to deliver the news two weeks ago: Akron is shutting down its baseball program.

“Oh my God,” Valek said he thought. “What am I going to do?”

Play at LSU.

John Valek. (

John Valek. (

Valek, a lefty from Parkland, Florida, is transferring from Akron to LSU, he said Thursday, giving the Tigers a potential midweek starter option. Valek, a senior with one year of eligibility remaining, is eligible to play immediately because the Zips shut down their baseball program.

Valek was a combined 16-18 in his three seasons as a starting pitcher in Akron, a program that’s cutting baseball for financial reasons. He went 6-6 last season with a 3.25 ERA and had ERAs of 2.77 in 2014 and 4.15 as a freshman in 2013. Valek led the Zips in innings pitched the last two seasons.

He visited LSU on Wednesday, committing to the Tigers shortly after touring the Baton Rouge campus and Alex Box Stadium. He plans to sign with the school in the next two days.

“When you visit LSU, nothing compares to that,” Valek said Thursday. “That’s the heaven of college baseball.”

Valek visited Florida International, Clemson and Florida Atlantic since learning that the Zips were dropping his sport starting this year – stunning news to him and his teammates. The school announced it just two weeks ago.

Akron assistant baseball coach Kyle Smith delivered the news to Valek.

“It was tough initially,” Valek said. “He called me and, to be honest, I was speechless for about 30 seconds. They kind of dropped the bomb on us.”

The recruiting process began again for Valek, a graduate of Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, which sits just north of Miami. A member of the LSU staff contacted Valek early in the process.

The Tigers lost left-handed reliever Zac Person to graduation this season, and coach Paul Mainieri and staff never found a real reliable midweek or No. 3 starting pitcher on the way to a 1-2 finish in the College World Series.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play baseball at LSU,” Valek said. “To finish my college baseball career there is something I couldn’t pass up.”

Valek called the situation “unique.” LSU coaches haven’t seen him throw, he said.

LSU returns starters sophomore ace Alex Lange and junior Jared Poche next season. Sophomores Jake Godfrey, Austin Bain and Doug Norman are seen as candidates to fill the starting rotation.

In this year’s signing class, LSU added highly regarded pitcher Cole McKay from Texas, Georgia’s Nick Bush, a lefty, and Caleb Gilbert from Alabama.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to compete,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to play to as big of a role as I can.”

LSU All-American Tracker: Kade Scivicque, Alex Lange and Alex Bregman are Perfect Game All-Americans

Kade Scivicque nabbed another All-American honor. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Kade Scivicque nabbed another All-American honor. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

The All-American Tracker gives you an easy way to track LSU players’ All-American honors for the 2015 season.

Updated through June 29

(bolded signifies the most recent awards)

RHP Alex Lange

  • 1st team, Perfect Game
  • 1st team freshman,
  • 1st team, Collegiate Baseball
  • 2nd team, D1Baseball
  • 1st team, NCBWA
  • 1st team, Baseball America
  • All-freshman team, Collegiate Baseball
  • All-freshman team, Baseball America
  • Freshman pitcher of the year, Collegiate Baseball
  • All-freshman team, NCBWA
  • Freshman pitcher of year, NCBWA

SS Alex Bregman

  • 1st team, Collegiate Baseball
  • 1st team, D1Baseball
  • 1st team, Baseball America
  • 2nd team, NCBWA
  • 2nd team, Perfect Game

C Kade Scivicque

  • 2nd team, Collegiate Baseball
  • 1st team, D1Baseball
  • 2nd team, Baseball America
  • 3rd team, NCBWA
  • 3rd team, Perfect Game

1B Chris Chinea

  • 3rd team, Collegiate Baseball
  • 3rd team, NCBWA

RHP Jesse Stallings

  • All-freshman team, Collegiate Baseball
  • All-freshman team, NCBWA

OF Andrew Stevenson

  • 3rd team, D1Baseball
  • 3rd team, Baseball America

LSU All-American Tracker: Alex Lange lands on D1Baseball’s first team

Alex Lange is 11-0. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Alex Lange is 11-0. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

The All-American Tracker gives you an easy way to track LSU players’ All-American honors for the 2015 season.

Updated through June 29

(bolded signifies the most recent awards)

RHP Alex Lange

  • 1st team freshman,
  • 1st team, Collegiate Baseball
  • 2nd team, D1Baseball
  • 1st team, NCBWA
  • 1st team, Baseball America
  • All-freshman team, Collegiate Baseball
  • All-freshman team, Baseball America
  • Freshman pitcher of the year, Collegiate Baseball
  • All-freshman team, NCBWA
  • Freshman pitcher of year, NCBWA

SS Alex Bregman

  • 1st team, Collegiate Baseball
  • 1st team, D1Baseball
  • 1st team, Baseball America
  • 2nd team, NCBWA

C Kade Scivicque

  • 2nd team, Collegiate Baseball
  • 1st team, D1Baseball
  • 2nd team, Baseball America
  • 3rd team, NCBWA

1B Chris Chinea

  • 3rd team, Collegiate Baseball
  • 3rd team, NCBWA

RHP Jesse Stallings

  • All-freshman team, Collegiate Baseball
  • All-freshman team, NCBWA

OF Andrew Stevenson

  • 3rd team, D1Baseball
  • 3rd team, Baseball America

Part II, Q and A with LSU coach Paul Mainieri: Looks to 2016 as Tigers must replace a bevy of position players



How will LSU replace All-American shortstop Alex Bregman? Who fills the holes left by speedy outfielders Andrew Stevenson and Mark Laird?

In Part II of a Q&A with Paul Mainieri, the coach provides some insight to a massive rebuilding process he’ll undertake ahead of the 2016 season. Part I of the Q&A can be found here.

LSU loses seven position players from a squad that advanced to the College World Series and finished with the nation’s best record at 54-12. As many as four freshmen could be in the opening day starting lineup next season and a couple more junior college signees are poised to start as well.

Meanwhile, the new baseball isn’t changing Mainieri’s recruiting method – he’ll continue to focus his efforts on power pitchers.

Q: Alex Bregman. How do you replace him? Who are the guys you could see playing that position next year?

Mainieri: First of all, what an eight-year run this has been for me as the coach at LSU. The last eight years, we’ve had a shortstop by the name of DJ LeMahieu, Austin Nola or Alex Bregman. Three bonafide major leaguers. That’s a great run that we had, and I hope it would continue.

When Alex Bregman came here as a freshman, we didn’t know he was going to be that caliber of a shortstop. A lot of people thought catcher was the position he should play. In fact, the summer before he came to school here, he wasn’t even playing shortstop. He was catching. Only because I encouraged him to take groundballs every day and that I wanted to look at him at short first that he prepare himself to try to be the shortstop here.

You never know how it’s exactly going to work out. You just don’t know.



DJ LeMahieu, we sweated out him signing professionally until the day he showed up for school in August. Austin Nola I sweated out a little bit whether or not he would sign, though I had a good feeling. So at this point in the summer it’s rare to say, ‘This guy is going to be your shortstop and this is how good he’s going to be,’ because you just don’t know.

We were pretty surprised this junior college shortstop, Mitch Piatnik, signed professionally for $200,000. That was not the indication he had given to us of what his desires were. The opportunity to replace Alex Bregman at shortstop is also a great responsibility and how a player looks at that can be different from one player to another. Some players might be afraid of that. Others may embrace that opportunity. When I talk to (signee) Trey Dawson about the possibility of him replacing Alex Bregman, he’s excited about that. He’s not afraid. He turned down $650,000 signing bonus. Somebody would have taken him in the third round if he would have just said, ‘yes, I’ll sign for that amount.’

That in itself doesn’t tell you the guy’s going to be a great player, but obviously somebody thought highly of him. Several teams did at that point in the draft. I feel fortunate that Trey is coming to school. He’s a good athlete. Now, how does he handle it every day? Who knows. But I have a good feeling about him. Let me just put it that way.

We’re also going to look at O’Neal Lochridge, who played shortstop for St. Thomas More. In my mind, I had always thought of O’Neal more as a third baseman than a shortstop but, especially after Piatnik leaving, I think we have to do our due diligence and take a look at him at shortstop first. Regardless of whether O’Neal stays at short or slides over at third, both of those positions are going to be critical for us to replace. I’m not sure how the pieces of the puzzle will fit together at this point.

And then you have Grayson Byrd and Kramer Robertson who are returning from last year’s team will be right there in the mix.

Q: How do other returning guys fit in to replace seven of eight position players lost this season?

Mainieri: Of all the returning backup players, the guy that probably gives me the strongest feeling that he’s ready to play for us and play at a high level at least for the portion of the time is Michael Papierski behind the plate. I think he’s an excellent defensive catcher. Now, his hitting needs to improve by leaps and bounds. And I’m really excited about Jordan Romero, the LSU-Eunice catcher from Catholic High coming as well.

I think Bryce Jordan has made a lot of improvement, even though you haven’t seen it because it’s been mostly catching pitchers in the bullpen. I think between those three guys we’re going to have a nice core of catchers. I think of all of the returning backup players Michael Papierski shows he’s probably the most ready because it’s such a critical defensive position.

Next I think you’ve got to look at Kramer Robertson because I think he can play defense. Will he be a good enough offensive player? Has he matured in his knowledge of the game enough that he can be an instinctive player. He’s off to a good start in the Cape Cod League. Got three hits in his first game. He’ll be in the mix there.

Danny Zardon will be a third-year bat. I’m still concerned about where we play him defensively and he may just be a first baseman or a DH. I don’t know. Maybe an emergency infielder. I think the Jordan boys showed glimpses. I was extremely high on those boys last fall. When they didn’t get a chance to play regularly in the spring, they didn’t perform as well, but after playing this summer I’m hoping they’ll return to what they showed during fall practice and continue that when they get back here.

I think Grayson (Byrd) has made enormous improvements from the fall to the spring. Now, whether or not he improves enough that would warrant him to be an everyday player, time will tell.

Greg Deichmann. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Greg Deichmann. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

I think Greg Deichmann still has a lot of room for improvement. I’m trying to figure out where defensively he can play in a positive way. And will he hit consistently enough? His first 22 games of the Northwoods League has been kind of a mixed bag. I don’t think he’s hitting .200 right now after 100 at-bats and no home runs and striking out one out one of every three at-bats. He’s not off to a great start there. Hopefully it will get better.

Q: You have two outfield spots to fill, too, right?

Mainieri: Beau (Jordan) is an outfielder, but Beau’s not a speed demon out there either. It was nice having some fast guys. We’ve got some good freshmen coming in and junior college transfers coming in. Cody Ducote is a kid I’m excited about seeing. He was the best hitter at Delgado for the last two years. His coaches made comparisons to Sean McMullen and Mason Katz to me. If he can hit like either one of those guys consistently, he’s going to have a good chance to play here.

The two kids out of Lafayette, I’m extremely excited about – Brennan Breaux, who follows in Andrew Stevenson’s footsteps as the center fielder from St. Thomas More, and Antoine Duplantis is a player that I’ve really taken a liking to. He can run. He can hit. His brother just finished his career here as a pole vaulter on our track team. His mom and dad were track athletes at LSU as well. So he comes from a family of signifianct athletic ability and he can run. He’s kind of cut out of the same mold as Laird and Stevenson. I think he’s going to be a pretty good hitter too.

Breaux and Duplantis, I think, have a chance. There’s a kid from Georgia we recruited named Brody Wofford that we think is going to be a pretty good hitter. We’re not sure he’s going to be a corner infielder or corner outfielder yet. We’ll kind of let the process happen throughout the fall. It’s hard to say of the returning players which ones have the inside track on playing because we’ve got all of these new guys coming.

Kid named Cole Freeman, a second baseman from Delgado, can really run. He hit real well at Delgado this year. Is he going to be better than Kramer? We’re going to line them up and see. Bryce Adams, a kid out of Dunham who went to Delgado. He’s a big, strong home-run hitting first baseman.

Q: Your opening day starting lineup in 2016 could include five true freshmen?

Mainieri: I think so. Three to four maybe. Five might be an extension.

Q: Does that scare you – going from such a veteran lineup to that?

Mainieri: I don’t know if scare is the right word. I think it’s exciting. I’ve played freshmen before. In 2013, we went to Omaha with three freshmen in our starting lineup. Laird, Stevenson and Bregman. My first year here we played four freshmen every day.

Some freshman, just like in pitching, will adapt quicker than others.

Q: The new ball. Have you seen enough from it this year to change anything you do as a coach or a recruiter?

Mainieri: I think the ball helped a little bit. I thought it helped about the level I thought it would – maybe 25 percent better. I don’t think you can build a team just based on hitting home runs. I don’t think you want to anyway if you want to win in Omaha. I’m glad to see a little bit more life into the ball, which translates into a little bit more offense, but I think there’s more they could do. Wish we would go to the minor league ball. Has a different core. Wish bats were a little more lively, but they’re not so you just deal with it.

Alex Lange is 11-0. (HILARY SCHEINUK)


There’s no question … UCLA showed the model back in 2013. They hit .240 as a team and won the national championship because they dominated on the mound. You just don’t see teams winning anymore unless they dominate on the mound. That’s what we’re going to continue to try to do.

We need Alex Lange to pitch at the high level like he did this year. I hope somebody will develop enough to pass Jared Poché in the rotation. If we had a rotation of Lange and another super stud dominating guy and Jared Poché was your third-best starter, that’d be a pretty good staff.

Q: Lange. It’s tough to follow a freshman season like that, but what do you expect from him?

Mainieri: It is really scary. Aaron Nola had a season like this his sophomore year and I remember going into his junior year and the draft was lurking and everything else and I told Aaron, ‘Look, don’t worry about matching the numbers of last season. Just go out there every day and do the best you can and work hard with (Alan Dunn), prepare and pitch to win. Just try to help your team win.’

It worked well for him. He just kept his focus on being a team oriented guy and he had a tremendous year as a junior following a phenomenal sophomore year. I’ll probably give Alex the same advice, but Alex is a very similar kid to Aaron Nola. They’re very humble, very hard-working, very respectful, very team-oriented. So I really don’t see an issue with Alex Lange at all. I don’t think he’ll put any added pressure on him. I think he’s just going to go out there and try to be the best teammate he can.

Part I, Q and A with LSU coach Paul Mainieri: Evaluating the 2015 season and detailing team’s limitations

Skip Bertman and Paul Mainieri at the CWS. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Skip Bertman and Paul Mainieri at the CWS. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

His ninth season as LSU’s head baseball coach a few days behind him, Paul Mainieri sat down with The Advocate to discuss one of the best regular seasons in program history and a postseason that ended just a couple of games short of the national championship series.

The Tigers finished with the nation’s best record at 54-12, won the Southeastern Conference regular season title and advanced to a 17th College World Series. His team didn’t underachieve, but they did fall short of winning the school’s seventh national title, Mainieri said. That means his expectations were not met.

He detailed his squad’s ultimate undoing – not having a third starting pitcher and enough power arms. He explained how he and his staff are combating the lack of power pitchers and why some schools are able to get power arms easier.

Mainieri suggested that rising sophomores Austin Bain, Jake Godfrey and Doug Norman have potential to be starters, but that they need more experience in the summer and fall, specifically with secondary pitchers.

Part II of our Q&A will be released online Friday. In that, Mainieri details how he might replace seven position starters, including shortstop Alex Bregman, and what he expects from ace Alex Lange in Year 2 in Baton Rouge.

Q: Did this season live up to your expectations?

Mainieri: That’s a tricky question because every year my expectations are to win a national championship. That’s what we go into the season to do. With that said, that’s only happened six times in the illustrious history of LSU baseball.

The absolute, only way you evaluate a season living up to your expectations is if you won the last game of the season and held up the big trophy. About 99.9 percent of the time you’re going to be disappointed and have to say that it didn’t live up to expectations.

I think when you take a step back and think about going into the season what our feelings were … we did say we had a very veteran lineup. We expected to have more underclassmen in the lineup. (Danny) Zardon, Kramer Robertson. As it turns out, (Chris) Sciambra and (Jared) Foster became every day players and replaced those two guys. There were other twists and turns that made that happen so we ended up with an extremely veteran lineup but we still went into it with a very young pitching staff. When you’re counting on an extremely young, freshman oriented pitching staff, that could be disastrous or it could turn out OK. You don’t really know for sure.

Jake Godfrey. (PATRICK DENNIS)

Jake Godfrey. (PATRICK DENNIS)

If all of the freshmen had pitched like Jake Godfrey, Austin Bain, Doug Norman, then it would have been a mediocre season because those guys had great moments but they had poor moments as well. If all of them had happened like what happened to Jake Latz and Mac Marshall, it would have been a disaster because those guys didn’t pitch for us. Fortunately for us we had one freshman by the name of Alex Lange that far surpassed anybody’s expectations. You can’t expect anybody, much less a true freshman, to go 12-0 with a sub-2 ERA. That’s Aaron Nola as a junior, pitching at that level. Who can expect something like that?

When you add it all together, knowing that you had so many questions with the pitching going in, couple of changes in the lineup … you look at it and say we won an SEC championship, we were a national seed for a fourth straight year, won more games than anybody in the country, swept a regional, swept a super regional after hosting both events. You go to Omaha. You don’t win the national championship but you won a game. Basically finished in the top five in the country. That’s not a bad season. It’s a little bit difficult to say it met your expectations or it didn’t meet your expectations.

I don’t think we underachieved. I don’t think we had a disastrous season at all. I’m very proud of the kids and what they accomplished but, obviously, unless you win the last game of the season you’re never truly satisfied.

Q: You mentioned after the season-ending loss that limitations on your club were exposed. When you look at those limitations and what happened this season, do you change anything about your coaching or recruiting moving forward?

Mainieri: Every team has limitations. Virtually every team. Vanderbilt, it’s kind of hard to find many weaknesses on their team. Most teams have imperfections. I’ve been to Omaha five times – once with Notre Dame and four times with LSU. One time we won it all and one time we went 2 and out. The other three times we lost to the same team both times. We lost to that team, then won a game and then lost to that team again.

You see this happen frequently. So sometimes I think you get to that tournament and the matchup of the team you play just seems to have your number for whatever reason. I’m not saying that it’s the strength of their team exposes the limitations of your team. It’s hard to say what the reasons are. Maybe it’s just the format of the tournament, but it seems so frequently. TCU lost to Vanderbilt twice. To us, TCU looked so great but then Vanderbilt whips them 7-1 the next day.

It’s a strange phenomena that happens out there. Sometimes it’s what bracket you end up in. When we won in 09, Arkansas lost to us twice.

I think any season, whatever level you play at, it’s incumbent that you evaluate yourself. When I say yourself, I mean us as coaches. I’m talking about our program. You do a self-evaluation and say, ‘How can we do business better?’

There are some things I think we have to do better. Offensively, I think we need to be more productive when we have a runner at third base with less than two outs. We became a very aggressive team this year. Much more of a free-swinging team, hunt fastballs, hit home runs, hit extra-base hits, hit for a high average, got a lot of hits. But it was also, in the last six or seven years, probably the poorest team we had in scoring runners from third base with less than two outs. Maybe that’s because the pitchers pitch us differently when there’s a runner at third base. Now all of the sudden, they’re throwing off-speed pitches in fastball counts and that type of thing and we need to adjust to that better.

We stole a lot more bases. That’s a positive thing. But we also had some poor base-running reactions to situations because our mindset was so much in stealing bases that we didn’t react to batted balls sometimes the way I think we should have.

I think we need to bunt for hits more frequently, and I think it would be good for us to draw a few more walks.

I think our pitchers need to field their position better. We need to spend more time working with them on having them field their position better. I think we need to hold runners a little bit better.

One thing that’s shown from this tournament is the teams that win are the teams that dominate on the mound. Alex Lange dominates on the mound, we win. Jared Poché did not dominate on the mound and the guys we used in Game 3 did not dominate on the mound. We’re constantly striving to find those kinds of pitchers that are capable of going out there and pitching seven innings for you in a dominating fashion.

We thought we had one in Mac Marshall. We thought we potentially had one in Jake Latz. I think Jake Godfrey, Doug Norman, Austin Bain are perhaps capable of being dominating, but they’re not quite there yet because they were true freshmen that need more time for development.

This summer will help in their development. This fall will help. We’ll see if next year we have somebody that becomes more dominant because of the stuff that they have and their ability to execute their pitchers.

I don’t know if it means you recruit differently. I think you evaluate everything that you do and you try to improve. In order to improve, that’s also assuming that everything you already have is in place and you’re just improving upon what you already have.

The truth of the matter is we’re losing eight of our nine everyday players. So just to build a team that can play defense at that level, hit at that level, steal bases at that level is still going to be a challenge. So before you can improve on those other things you still have to have that foundation. This is the nature of college sports. Every year you have such turnover that you have to start virtually from scratch to build your team and make those improvements.



Q: Your bullpen. You see Vanderbilt and other teams throw these guys out of the pen, and one after another are throwing 96 miles per hour. I hate to sound blunt, but why don’t we see that at LSU?

Mainieri: That’s a really tough question to answer. Circumstances are different at every university that allow certain caliber players to be recruited. It’s not a normal thing for a player to turn down $2 million signing bonuses to attend LSU. But that happens pretty regularly at Vanderbilt. Anybody could speculate to what those reasons are. I’m not going to sit here and say anything. Whatever I say sounds like excuses, and I’m not going to make excuses.

It is what it is. We deal with the circumstances. Some schools have certain things they’re able to do that others are not. Nothing is necessarily equal across the board. You think it is. You think everybody just has 11.7 scholarships, but that’s not exactly the way it is all of the time.

Q: What do you do as a coach to combat that?

Mainieri: I think we are. We finished in the top five in the country. We won more games than anybody in the country. But, no, we don’t have a dozen guys throwing 95 miles an hour like they (Vanderbilt) do. I’ll be the first two admit that. And it’s not like their position players are a bunch of slouches either. They’ve kind of become the standard, but it’s hard to equal that standard when you’re trying to put together a team on 11.7 scholarships to have that same caliber of guy. It’s just very difficult to do. But we’re doing pretty well I think.

Who knows what would have happened if Marshall would have stayed in school and Latz would have been healthy? Maybe we would have successfully combated that. We have a plan. It’s hard for me to sit here and tell you the intricate details of how we recruit. ‘Well, we’re going to give this player this percentage (of a scholarship) and this player this percentage and emphasize this over this.’ I’d be divulging private information about scholarships for individual players.

This is not something you have to even investigate when you’re covering football or basketball because every kid is on a full scholarship. In baseball, it’s not like that. You have to break it up. Some of our best players don’t receive any scholarship at all. What am I going to sit here and do? Tell you that we have to recruit this player for no money so that we have enough money to be able to get this great arm over here. I can’t get that specific with you. But we’re doing the best we can with it, and I think we’re doing pretty well.

I think we had a good team. We didn’t quite match up arms wise with a couple of the teams that finished above us. We’re doing pretty well. We’re fortunate that some of the players we did have came to school. We’re fortunate Lange came to school. We’re fortunate Alex Bregman came to school. Those were as good as anybody. It’s hard to do that on a consistent basis when players are having to …

Let me ask you this: I’m recruiting you. You come from a middle class family. You’re not a 4.0 student with 1400 on your SATs. Your parents aren’t both doctors. I offer you a 50 percent scholarship, which means you have to pay $20,000 to come to LSU. And then some pro team says, ‘If you’ll sign for $1 million, we’ll draft you.’

The market of kids that, for the most part, we’re recruiting for LSU usually take that opportunity to go into professional baseball. The market the Vanderbilt people are recruiting and what they can do for them, to off-set their costs, those kids sometimes turn down a couple of million dollars to go to school. And then you have the 95 miles per hour arm on your pitching staff. A dozen of them. They’ve got a dozen guys that throw 94-95 miles an hour.

There are guys on that staff that you don’t even know who they are and they throw 97-98 miles an hour.

Q: Can anybody in the nation match what Vanderbilt has in regard to the amount of high-velocity pitching? Maybe TCU?

Mainieri: TCU. Private school. A lot of the similar stuff. And then some schools come from states – like Florida, Texas A&M – that are so populated that the more players there (give you) a better chance. With all due respect, we get a lot of good players from the state of Louisiana but the Aaron Nolas of the world don’t grow on trees in the state because the state isn’t as populated. It doesn’t have as many players.



Q: The three freshmen you gave the opportunity to start – Godfrey, Norman, Bain – and it didn’t work out. Why do you think they didn’t work out?

Mainieri: I think it’s the experience level. Sometimes it’s experience. Sometimes it’s the mental makeup of the player. Sometimes it’s where he is on the development of his secondary pitches. Usually what we see is a significant amount of improvement between their first year and their second year.

They’re all going off to pitch this summer, all going off to pitch. All of the things we work with them, that Alan Dunn has worked with them on, they need to go apply this summer in somewhat of a less pressurized situation where they can pitch through those jams they might get in and continue to throw those pitches they may not throw because they have to win at LSU and they’re not going to throw their third-best pitch at a critical time of the game when we might lose a game to an SEC opponent if they do it. Whereas in the summer, they have more luxury to do those types of things.

It’s very unusual to have an Alex Lange as a true freshman. Aaron Nola wasn’t that good as a true freshman.

Poll Speak Final: LSU top five in final polls

Chris Sciambra rounds first base after his game-winning homer against Louisiana-Lafayette (AP).

Chris Sciambra rounds first base after his game-winning homer against Louisiana-Lafayette (AP).

Keep track of LSU’s final rankings as the polls are released.


  • Baseball America: ?


  • NCAA RPI: ?