Tigers’ Jared Foster fighting back _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU-South Carolina baseball in Alex Box Stadium. LSU infielder Jared Foster (17) connects for a single to load the bases up with two outs in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Photo shot on Friday April 26, 2013, in Baton Rouge.

LSU outfielder Jared Foster was primed to break out in 2014.

After batting .359 during his sophomore season, LSU coach Paul Mainieri inserted the Lake Charles, Louisiana, native into the cleanup spot in the order on Opening Day. Foster proceeded to pick up three hits in his first 25 at-bats, good for a .120 average with only three RBIs.

He hit himself out of the starting lineup, finishing the year with a .115 batting average.

Now with his senior campaign upon him, Foster has begun to swing his way back into contention for playing time in left field. He’s found the stroke that made him a starter to begin the 2014 season, crushing three home runs in the squad’s spring scrimmages. And, as opposed to last season, Foster comes into 2015 with a mindset that he has to fight for a position.

It’s a mentality that he seemingly responds to.

After being handed a starting job last February, Foster failed to find any rhythm at the plate, and little-by-little the hitless at-bats chipped away at the junior.

“Last year, I don’t even know what I did, honestly,” Foster said. “I was just caught up and thinking about too much stuff. It was stuff that didn’t matter at the time. I was trying to do too much and impress too many people.”

Due to his 6-foot, 200-pound frame, explosive arm and power potential, MLB scouts had their eyes on the Tigers’ outfielder. It put added pressure on Foster to perform, and he spiraled into a vicious slump.

Foster said his struggles at the plate proved to be an opportunity to grow, though.

“It made me more mature,” Foster said. “It taught me about learning how to deal with adversity. Last year, I just tried to mix it up to much. I tried to do too much, and it cost me.”

Following his junior season, Foster needed a mental breather. He found one in the form of an LSU football jersey.

Foster was a quarterback for the Tigers during his freshman season, but he decided to focus on baseball full-time heading into his sophomore year. Last summer, he wanted to pick up the pigskin again. He proceeded to work out with the LSU football team, playing as a backup quarterback before suffering a fracture in his left foot that required surgery.

Even with the injury, being away from the diamond was just what he needed.

“I just told myself, ‘Hey, cool it. Cool down and take it easy,’” Foster said. “That’s when I realized you just have to have fun. Baseball is a tough sport as it is. Just come out here and have fun and don’t worry about your past failures.”

Fast forward to spring 2015, and Foster has found new life at the plate. With help from hitting coach Andy Cannizaro, Foster has changed to a more upright batting stance.

Foster said he’s been trying to keep a more simple approach to the plate.

“Last year he was trying to yank the ball a lot,” said LSU assistant coach Will Davis. “I think Andy’s really simplified things, and he has him going the other way and staying inside the ball.”

With Opening Day on Friday, Mainieri said Foster could earn a start during the Tigers’ three-game series against Kansas.

At the very least, Foster’s early production gives the Tigers’ coach another option in the lineup.

“I don’t know how many opportunities there are going to be for him,” Mainieri said. “But he’s certainly making it tough for me.”