LSU landed a pair of players on the preseason all-Southeastern Conference teams and was tabbed to finish fourth in the Western Division in the preseason coaches poll released Thursday.

Junior right fielder Antoine Duplantis, who batted .316 with 60 RBIs last season, was named to the first team, while sophomore center fielder Zach Watson (.317, 9 home runs) was named to the second team.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri saw a bit of a silver lining in the projected middle-of-the-pack finish in the SEC West. He arrived at that reasoning by telling a story about his 2008 team, which was picked to finish fifth after a poor 2007 season.

“We ended up winning the West, being a national seed, going to Omaha, and of course the next year we won a national championship,” Mainieri said.

Mainieri said he gathered his team in the fall before that 2008 season and said it would be the last time LSU was underestimated.

His words proved prescient: From 2009-17, the SEC preseason coaches poll predicted LSU  to finish either first or second in the SEC West every year. 

“Evidently, someone is going to take us lightly,” Mainieri said. “It took a decade for someone to take us lightly again.”

Florida and Arkansas, both of whom were picked to win division crowns, led the way with four players selected to the preseason all-SEC teams apiece. Florida’s JJ Schwarz was actually honored as a second-teamer at two separate positions.

The Gators were projected to win the league outright, receiving 12 of the 14 votes.

LSU did not receive a first-place vote in the voting to decide a divisional favorite.

“We’ll get what we earn,” Mainieri said. “I’m confident in our group. I think they’re going to continue to grow as the season goes on. We’ve got some very talented baseball players out here.”

Weather and pitching plans

LSU enjoyed some sun and blue skies at its Thursday practice, which has been a somewhat rare occurrence in recent weeks.

Rain has disrupted LSU’s outdoor practice schedule, and Mainieri sounded a bit concerned how the weather might affect his team in its season-opening series against Notre Dame.

“It forces you to think in those kinds of terms, which is kind of a pain in the neck to be honest with you.”

For example: If it continues to rain this weekend, LSU may have to move Zack Hess’ scheduled outing against live hitters back to Monday.

That would leave him just four days rest before his first start of the season.

“That will affect maybe how deep he can go into the game Saturday against Notre Dame,” Mainieri said.

Be on the lookout

The last couple weeks have done nothing to dissuade Mainieri from sticking with the starting lineup he first offered last week.

But a couple freshmen have impressed Mainieri enough to say he will not be surprised if they get a spot start at some point during opening weekend.

“Nick Webre has been one of the best hitters out here the first two weeks,” Mainieri said. “He continues to impress. I’m going to want to get him in there.

“Hal Hughes has played extremely well also. We’re developing those guys as though they are starting players.”


2018 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason All-SEC Team

First Team

C: Grant Koch, Arkansas

1B: Julian Infante, Vanderbilt

2B: Cobie Vance, Alabama

SS: Braden Shewmake, Texas A&M

3B: Jonathan India, Florida

OF: Antoine Duplantis, LSU

OF: Tristan Pompey, Kentucky

OF: Jake Mangum, Mississippi State

DH/UTL: Michael Curry, Georgia

SP: Brady Singer, Florida

SP: Casey Mize, Auburn

RP: Michael Byrne, Florida

Second Team

C: JJ Schwarz, Florida

1B: Kameron Misner, Missouri

2B: Luke Becker, Kentucky

SS: Jax Biggers, Arkansas

3B: George Janca, Texas A&M

OF: Dominic Fletcher, Arkansas

OF: Zach Watson, LSU

OF: Carlos Cortes, South Carolina

DH/UTL: JJ Schwarz, Florida

SP: Sean Hjelle, Kentucky

SP: Blaine Knight, Arkansas

RP: Dallas Woolfolk, Ole Miss


2018 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason Poll

Eastern Division

1. Florida (13) – 91

2. Kentucky (1) - 74

3. Vanderbilt – 72

4. South Carolina – 50

5. Georgia – 41

6. Missouri – 32

7. Tennessee – 25

Western Division

1. Arkansas (12) – 90

2. Texas A&M (1) – 72

3. Ole Miss (1) – 62

4. LSU – 59

5. Mississippi State – 44

6. Auburn – 38

7. Alabama – 20

(First place votes)

SEC Champion: Florida (12), Arkansas (1), Texas A&M (1)

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.