Tracking LSU in the national college baseball polls _lowres

Advocate staff photo by John Oubre -- LSU's Mark Laird lays down a bunt on Sunday against Georgia.

Kyle Bouman is a left-handed pitcher. Sean McMullen is a left-handed batter.

“You think, ‘Maybe I’ll have an advantage,” ’ Bouman said.


The now departed McMullen found ways to get on base during his two-year LSU career. Walk. Hit by pitch. Double. Single. Homer.

Bouman saw it in practice. Everyone else saw it in games.

It’s why no one batted leadoff more over the previous two seasons than McMullen. He hit in the No. 1 spot in 72 games.

“We’re going to miss him,” Bouman said.

LSU has a host of young talented starting pitchers, a veteran lineup, stellar defense and seasoned, deep bullpen. Lost in the headlines: Who will replace McMullen, a brawny, consistent power-hitting ball of energy?

In general, how does a lineup last season that coach Paul Mainieri continuously shuffled come together in 2015?

LSU is about halfway through a three-week-long preseason practice that should answer questions about the batting order.

Less than two weeks away from the Feb. 13 season opener against Kansas, there are plenty of options for McMullen’s replacement at the top of the order: centerfielder Andrew Stevenson, right fielder Mark Laird and second baseman Kramer Robertson lead the list.

Mainieri continues experimenting with his batting order during preseason scrimmages. In one scrimmage, he might have Stevenson at leadoff, Laird in the No. 2 hole, Alex Bregman at the third spot and first/second baseman Conner Hale at fourth.

In another, Laird is the first hitter, Bregman is batting second and Hale is in the No. 3 hole. Stevenson? He might be fifth behind Chris Chinea.

Mainieri, in a musical chair mood with his order last year, moved McMullen down the lineup for part of the season. Stevenson had a crack at leadoff and so did Laird. Shortstop Alex Bregman even batted twice at leadoff.

For now, Mainieri knows who three of his top four hitters will be: Hale, Bregman and Laird.

“Whether I use Stevenson as the leadoff guy or hit him more in the middle of the order is the only question,” the coach said.

Stevenson, a junior who batted leadoff his entire career at St. Thomas More, went from a struggling No. 9 hole hitter as a freshman in 2013 to the team leader in batting average last season.

He was like everyone else last year — he never knew where he’d be hitting until hours before the game. Eight of Mainieri’s 10 everyday starters last season batted in at least five different positions.

“I moved everywhere,” Stevenson said. “Wherever coach was feeling that day, that was where I was at.”

He batted in six different spots in the order at least five times each. No else on the team did that. Stevenson hit fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and leadoff. He batted seventh the most at 17 times and hit leadoff in a dozen games.

Stevenson doesn’t hide his feelings: He wants to be the leadoff guy.

“It’s something I enjoy doing,” he said.

The key to securing the job?

“Consistency,” he said. “Being consistent every day.”

McMullen was that guy for much of the last few years.

He finished last year third in on-base percentage (.390), first in doubles (18), first in walks (37), second in slugging percentage (.507), tied for first in home runs (7) and second in RBIs (40).

McMullen often occupied the designated hitter spot, a position likely to be filled by Chinea or Kade Scivicque, two guys rotating at catcher with switch-hitting freshman Mike Papierski.

The order gets more unpredictable lower in the lineup. Sophomore Danny Zardon is expected to get the first shot at playing third base. He’s a guy who, with Bregman, tied for the team lead with four home runs this fall. He’s likely, though, to start the season down in the order.

If Robertson doesn’t lead off, he could see early playing time at second base and is likely, with Jake Fraley, to round out the bottom of the lineup.

Nothing is certain, though. Mainieri has a week and a half to decide on his order and then a month longer before Southeastern Conference play begins.

“I’m experimenting,” Mainieri said recently. “I just don’t know.”


Our best guess

The Advocate takes a stab at guessing LSU’s opening day lineup. This is only a guess. Coach Paul Mainieri continues to experiment with this order.

1 Mark Laid (RF)

2 Alex Bregman (SS)

3 Conner Hale (1B)

4 Chris Chinea (DH)

5 Andrew Stevenson (CF)

6 Kade Scivicque (C)

7 Jake Fraley (LF)

8 Danny Zardon (3B)

9 Kramer Robertson (2B)

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.