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
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
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
Daniel Cabrera tries to not let the pressure get to him.
2018 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason Poll
1. Florida (13) – 91
2. Kentucky (1) - 74
3. Vanderbilt – 72
4. South Carolina – 50
5. Georgia – 41
6. Missouri – 32
7. Tennessee – 25
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)