Three weeks into the season, LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri is making a change at third base.
Conner Hale will replace Danny Zardon at the position, an inconsistent spot on the diamond for LSU and a position that has concerned Mainieri since Christian Ibarra played his final game last season.
“I just don’t feel as comfortable as I need to feel with (Zardon) being the everyday third baseman,” Mainieri said Monday. “My opinion at this time is I think Conner Hale can do a better job at third base than Danny.”
Hale, normally the team’s first or second baseman, begins work at his new position when LSU (10-1) hosts Stephen F. Austin (4-8) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Alex Box Stadium.
Zardon, a sophomore from Florida, is being moved to first base, but he’ll still play some third, the coach said.
“It just depends when I want to have our best defensive team on the field or our best offensive team on the field,” he said.
His best defensive team, he said, is Zardon at first, Kramer Robertson at second, Hale at third and Chris Chinea at designated hitter. The top offensive team is Zardon at third, Hale at second, Chinea at first and either Jake Fraley or Jared Foster — whoever is not playing left field — at designated hitter.
Mainieri said he will “most of the time” play his defensive lineup, but he wants to get Fraley and Foster, two players who have opened the season on hot hitting streaks, in the same lineup.
Foster got a crack at third base during practice Monday. He’s “not ready” to play the position, Mainieri said. Foster hasn’t played infield since his freshman season.
Zardon played first some last year, but he never played it in high school. Zardon has committed three errors in nine starts this season. Mainieri has played both Zardon and Bryce Jordan at third. The two have a fielding percentage of .833 this season.
“I should have made a lot more plays defensively,” Zardon said. “The three errors I made should have been outs.”
Bouman, No. 4 starter?
Kyle Bouman is back to being a starting pitcher, but don’t expect him to hit again.
Bouman, a senior from Missouri, has a shot to be LSU’s No. 4 starter, Mainieri said. Bouman will start Tuesday, a few days after he caused a stir at Alex Box by legging out an infield single.
Bouman batted in Saturday’s 15-4 win over Princeton and made it to first base just in time to pick up his first career college hit on a chopper to shortstop.
“I told Kyle Bouman, ‘You’re going to go down in history as the all-time highest batting average in the history of college baseball,’ ” Mainieri said. “ ‘Nobody can pass you. Might be some people tied with you. I’m sure you’re not going to get another at-bat this year. You’ll retire with a 1.000 batting average.’ ”
Bouman, more importantly, has a chance to unseat freshman Doug Norman as the Tigers’ No. 4 starting pitcher. Norman has allowed five earned runs (10 in all) in two starts and has given up 15 hits.
“Bouman’s going to get a chance to establish himself as the fourth starter,” Mainieri said. “I’m not really sure what we’re going to do with Doug Norman going forward. He’s going to have to pitch a lot better than he’s pitched to continue to be in the rotation.”
Bouman on Tuesday will be hard-pressed to top his last appearance. His infield single sent the LSU dugout into a frenzy. It was his first at-bat since his senior year of high school, and he had to use Hale’s bat. Bouman didn’t have one.
“I’ve gotten a lot more text messages just about that at-bat than any game I’ve ever pitched here,” said Bouman, last year’s No. 3 starter. “I thought I was for sure out. It’s tough to follow that one.”
Latz, Deichmann to return
Freshmen Jake Latz and Greg Deichmann are expected to return this week.
Latz, a highly touted pitcher who turned down about $900,000 to come to LSU, will throw Friday for the first time in nearly a month. While competing for a weekend starting spot, he suffered a stress reaction in his elbow nearly a month ago.
Deichmann, an infielder from Brother Martin, is set to get a walking boot on his left foot removed Thursday. He suffered a stress reaction in the foot during the preseason.
Deichmann, competing at third and second base, was expected to be out about 4 to 6 weeks. The injury happened four weeks ago.
In the polls
LSU took its first drop in a poll this year: The Tigers fell from No. 4 to No. 5 in the USA Today coaches poll, which is released every few weeks.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.
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Stephen F. Austin (4-8) at LSU (10-1)
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Alex Box Stadium
RANKINGS: LSU is ranked as low as No. 7 and as high as No. 2. SFA is not ranked.
PITCHING MATCHUPS: SFA junior LHP Eric Polivka (0-0, 14.85 ERA) vs. LSU senior LHP Kyle Bouman (0-0, 12.00)
ONLINE: SEC Network+, which is accessible at SECNetwork.com and the WatchESPN app
RADIO: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-AM, 870; KLWB-FM, 103.7
IN-GAME UPDATES: @DellengerAdv, @BarrecaAdvocate
WHAT TO WATCH: Kyle Bouman gets his first start of the season, and coach Paul Mainieri wants him to go four to five innings as the coach opens the No. 4 starting pitcher role somewhat after Doug Norman’s struggles.
KNOW YOUR FOE: The Lumberjacks are batting just .231 and have allowed 10 or more runs in four games this year.
IN THE HOLE: vs. Grambling, 3 p.m. Wednesday