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LSU sophomore Cade Doughty (4) fields a ball at practice, Friday, January 29, 2021, at Alex Box Stadium on the campus of LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU debuted a new infield configuration Tuesday night as sophomore Cade Doughty returned from a shoulder injury, changes that made coach Paul Mainieri say “this looks like we finally found the right combination.”

The No. 15 Tigers, who beat Texas Southern 10-4 inside Alex Box Stadium, moved Doughty to third base, shifted freshman Jordan Thompson to shortstop and kept sophomore Zach Arnold at second base.

The shakeup marked the first significant tweaks Mainieri made to the lineup this season. He hopes by moving Doughty to third base and Thompson to shortstop, LSU can settle the two positions that concerned him most during preseason practice.

“I think this is going to be the way to go forward,” Mainieri said.

Mainieri intended to install the new infield more than a week ago, but Doughty suffered a left shoulder subluxation as a teammate bumped into him during a home run celebration. Doughty, who had surgery on the shoulder in high school, missed the next five games.

“He didn’t know it, but after that game, I was going to talk to him and we were going to move him to third base,” Mainieri said. “Of course that conversation never took place because he got hurt.”

Once Doughty healed, Mainieri asked him to come to his office Monday morning. They discussed the change, and Doughty took ground balls during practice at third base, a position he played often during a high school summer league before his senior year.

“Obviously I can still improve, but I feel pretty comfortable over there,” Doughty said. “Hopefully I can make the routine plays and maybe some great ones.”

Mainieri considered putting Doughty at third base once he arrived at LSU last year and started him there once, but Doughty struggled defensively as a freshman, so Mainieri moved him to second base, a less demanding spot. He started 21 games at second base over the last two seasons. He hadn’t committed an error this year.

The left side of the infield, particularly third base, worried Mainieri throughout preseason practice. LSU’s infielders didn’t consistently make routine plays. Trying to settle a position Mainieri has seen ruin teams in the past, LSU started three players at third base in 13 games: freshman two-way player Will Hellmers, Thompson and now Doughty.

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“He’s older now,” Mainieri said. “He’s more confident. He’s more physical. He’s ready to be able to handle third base.”

Thompson, who Perfect Game considered the No. 53 player in the country in high school, started the past 10 games at third base, where he made two errors. Mainieri called shortstop Thompson’s “more natural position.” He converted four chances Tuesday night, including the final out.

After saying Thompson was inconsistent during preseason practice, Mainieri thought his confidence had grown throughout the season.

“I feel like he’s improved enough that it’s worth taking a good look at him there,” Mainieri said. “I feel confident Jordan will do the job, and we’re going to give him every opportunity to do the job.”

Behind Thompson, sophomore infielder Collier Cranford and junior utility player Drew Bianco played shortstop during pregame warmups Tuesday. Cranford didn’t commit an error in 11 starts last season, and Bianco started the last five games at shortstop, giving LSU options.

“Kids are going to make errors,” Mainieri said. “Nobody’s perfect. As long as he’s making the errors aggressively — like that last play. He charged that ball very confidently, and that’s what I want to see.

“What concerns me is when he hangs back and doesn’t attack the ball and he’s not confident in the way he’s going after it. That’s when I get concerned. But tonight he was very aggressive and looked like he wanted the ball hit to him.”

With Doughty and Thompson set along the left side of the infield, Arnold remained at second base, a position that gives players more time to react. Arnold made two throwing errors in four starts at second base as Doughty recovered, but he’s batting .311 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.

The player who lost his spot as a result of the changes was Bianco, who pushed himself into contention at shortstop during preseason practice. But Bianco went 2 for 16 last week with three RBIs, one walk and seven strikeouts.

“I liked the way that infield looked today,” Mainieri said. “Any time Tre’ Morgan’s at first base, it looks good.”

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