BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The 2019 LSU baseball team is yet to take the field, but already, the expectations are sky high for a College World Series berth and a national championship.
The journey begins Friday when the the Tigers host ULM, followed by Army on Saturday and Air Force on Sunday.
“I’ve been here for now, this will be my 13th opening night, and every one of them has been exciting, nerve wracking, great anticipation," said head coach Paul Mainieri. "I made this comment many times and I really feel this way; I think I’m more anxious and nervous about opening day than I am about coaching in a national championship game. It’s just the unknown.”
Right-hander Zack Hess will take the mound in the first game. The rest of the starting lineup is:
- Shortstop: Josh Smith
- 3rd Base: Brandt Broussard
- Right Field: Antoine Duplantis
- Left Field: Daniel Cabrera
- Center Field: Zach Watson
- Designated Hitter: Saul Garza
- 1st Base: Drew Bianco
- Catcher: Brock Mathis
- 2nd Base: Hal Hughes
It’s not hard to see why the expectations are so high for this year’s squad. Veterans returning from last season’s team include Daniel Cabrera, Josh Smith, Antoine Duplantis, Zach Watson, Hal Hughes, Brandt Broussard, and Chris Reid.
Smith is returning after suffering a stress reaction in his vertebrae. He spent most of his time with pitcher Eric Walker in rehab and waiting to get back to the field.
“It was pretty weird,” said Smith. “All the guys would go to the field, and me and Eric were just hanging out. We didn’t really have anything to do. But me and Eric got pretty tight and hung out a lot.”
The pitching staff looks to be stronger this year for the Tigers with the return of Eric Walker, Zack Hess, Ma’Khail Hilliard, Caleb Gilbert, Todd Peterson, AJ Labas, and Matthew Beck.
Walker is back after missing the entire 2018 season due to injury.
“For me, there were so many small milestones,” said Walker. “I’d get my range of motion. Then I’d get to do ball tosses. Then I could throw 45 feet. Every phase gave me that added enthusiasm to keep going. It propelled me to continue the process.”
On top of the returning players, add the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class and you get the picture, it could be a special year on the diamond.
“It’s almost here; the whole team is excited,” said designated hitter Saul Garza. “We’re just ready to get out there tomorrow. The sheet said to be at the field by 2 [o’clock] but as soon as class is done, we’re probably all going to head here.”
drew bianco: “Definitely day-dreaming a little bit in class,” said first baseman Drew Bianco. “Probably shouldn’t be doing that, but definitely, just imagine 12,000 people and getting the first ground ball, getting your first hit. In the stands, getting the first 'W' tomorrow.”
As far as LSU’s pitching rotation goes, Zack Hess and his electric stuff start Friday night. True freshman Landon Marcaux from Destrehan has been very impressive in pre-season work and will get the start Saturday. Veteran Eric Walker will not be coming back from his injury Sunday to take the mound. Instead, it will be true freshman Jaden Hill from the small town of Ashdown, Arkansas.
“I prefer to see Jaden Hill’s first time out to be at home so he has a lot of support, a lot people pulling for him, as opposed to against him,” Mainieri added.
“We have 20 pitchers on staff, so just knowing every day, you have to compete because the person behind you is just as good,” said Hill. “So, that brings out the best in all of us. It makes us a better team, actually.”
LSU WEEKEND SCHEDULE:
Friday: ULM at 7 p.m.
Saturday: Army at 2 p.m.
Sunday: Air Force at 3 p.m.
LSU GAMEDAY REMINDERS:
Geaux Clear Bag Policy
Fans are reminded that LSU’s Geaux Clear bag policy is in effect for all sports. The following bags are permitted inside LSU Athletic venues: clear 12” x 6” x 12” or smaller bags, clear 1-gallon freezer bags & clear or non-clear 4.5” x 6.5” (approximately the size of a person’s hand) wallets/wristlets/clutches. Diaper bags must be clear and adhere to this policy. For more information regarding the clear bag policy, please visit LSUsports.net/geauxclear
Medical Items - Designated Entry Point
Fans with medically necessary items and/or bags will be allowed to enter Alex Box Stadium following a more thorough search at the designated medical item inspection point located at Gate 2 (home plate gate).
Guest Services Assistance Line (225-578-4085)
LSU Athletics’ Guest Services Assistance Line is available to assist fans with questions before, during and after LSU Athletics competitions and events. The assistance line is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and also surrounding LSU Athletics events. Guest Services representatives are happy to assist fans with all questions/concerns or direct them to the appropriate personnel.
Entrance/Gate Opening Times
All public entrances to Alex Box Stadium open two hours prior to first pitch. The Alex Box Stadium Ticket Office also opens at this time.
Check back throughout the day for more on opening day, including interviews with head coach Paul Mainieri and some of the players.
Watch the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts for more analysis.