EUNICE — The terms experimenting and solidifying a lineup haven’t been used often when it comes to describing the early season LSU-Eunice baseball lineup.
This year could be quite different, said Bengals coach Jeff Willis.
The lineup the Bengals place on the field at 6 p.m. Friday when they host North Lake College in the first of a season-opening weekend series, won’t look much like the experienced one that finished 52-10 as the runner-up in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series in June.
Willis said he’s dealing with one of his more youner teams in 12 seasons at LSU-E, where the Bengals have won 532 games under his direction.
In one preseason poll, LSU-E is ranked second, but Willis dismisses that as perhaps a little premature.
“Preseason rankings are nice for our program and our university, but (the rankings) are really about what you did last year and our players need to live in the present,” said Willis.
Reality for Willis includes a glance at the Bengals current roster.
“There are a lot of newcomers,” Willis said. I wouldn’t want to say this is the youngest team we have had here, but it probably is among the top three.”
“Some of the guys who are starting for us right now are straight out of high school.”
During the first part of the year, Willis said the coaches will be determining how the puzzle pieces fit.
“I think the word for us at this point is that we are solidifying the lineup,” Willis said. “There are still battles to be won at positions and in the lineup at one through nine.”
The roster includes three returning position players and one starting pitcher, sophomore Chad Reeves, a left-hander from Sterlington, who is scheduled as Friday’s starter.
Third baseman Stefan Trosclair, who played at Sulphur High, was the team’s second-leading hitter (.348) last year. Trosclair started all 62 games and had 58 RBIs.
Left fielder Tyler Chapman, a sophomore from Iowa High, batted .313, while outfielder Derek Harrington (Minden High) also returns.
First baseman Kyle St. Pierre is a sophomore who batted .342 and was the team’s third leading hitter. St. Pierre played last year, but he didn’t start.
Reeves made 15 starts last season and was 10-2 with a 2.46 ERA.
There are changes in the middle of the Bengals’ infield.
Ray Veit, a sophomore who played at Rummel High, is moving from third base to second.
The shortstop is freshman Brennan Bozeman, a former football standout at Parkview Baptist.
Ralphie McDonald, a freshman from New York, will be the early season starter in center field. McDonald played at Brooklyn’s Grant Street High.
LSU-E’s catching situation is also in a state of flux with a Baton Rouge influence.
Initially the starter is freshman Mason Mickens, who played at Dutchtown.
Willis said the Bengals are waiting for another freshman catcher, Jordan Romero, who played at Catholic High-Baton Rouge, to heal from a shoulder injury that occurred during fall practices.
Projected as starters behind Reeves are Nick Hartman, from Jesuit Preparatory High in Katy, Tex., and freshman Zack Hamilton, who played at Parkview Baptist.
Will Bacon, a right-handed pitcher also from Parkview Baptist, is still about a month away from taking the mound as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, Willis said.
The Bengals have also added red shirt freshman pitcher Hayden Barnett, who was on the 2013 roster at the University of Arkansas.
Barnett, who played at Houston’s Strattford High, was redshirted at Arkansas last season.