Forget the 'Fab Four,' LSU baseball may have the next 'Fab Five'
BATON ROUGE - Two years ago, LSU head baseball coach Paul Mainieri nicknamed the Tigers' key returning seniors the "Fab four." Greg Deichman, Cole Freeman, Kramer Robertson, and Jared Poche were all instrumental parts of getting back to college baseball's ultimate destination, Omaha.
Now two years later, the feeling is almost identical.
"You could tell that each guy was kind of feeling the same thing," said Friday night starter Zack Hess. "If we come back next year, it's got a shot to be something special."
With center fielder Zach Watson, Junior starting pitcher Zack Hess, and senior outfielder Antoine Duplantis all bypassing the opportunity to sign professional contracts, the Tigers have earned a preseason No. 1 overall ranking. And, look poised to hunt down their first national title since 2009.
"What a difference it makes to have those guys out there," Mainieri said at Friday's media day. "Every day you can just feel the leadership, the calmness, the experience and how it rubs off on the young players to let them know how it works."
Some may call it the "big three," but with the return of Eric Walker from Tommy John surgery and short stop Josh Smith from a season ending back injury, LSU truly has a "Fab Five" for 2019.
"I mean it's been 17-18 months, I honestly don't even picture it now as rehab," Eric Walker said. "You know I'm full-clear, full-go and just excited to hopefully get out and contribute this year."
In reality, it was a rare feat for LSU to have three players reject pro contracts. In essence, Duplantis, Watson and Hess could all boost their draft stock for Junes upcoming MLB draft with a solid season. But for three guys to turn away the money and come back, that marks only the 2nd time in Mainieri's tenure that three players said no to pro ball, which could make a huge impact in 2019.
LSU will open the regular season on Friday, Feb. 15 at Alex Box Stadium against Louisiana-Monroe.
With three weeks between opening night, Mainieri offered up his projected starting lineup on Friday.
1. Antoine Duplantis RF
2. Josh Smith SS
3. Saul Garza DH
4. Daniel Cabrera LF
5. Zach Watson CF
6. Whoever plays first base
7. Brock Mathis C
8. Hal Hughes 3B – OR – Brandt Broussard
9. Hal Hughes 3B – OR – Brandt Broussard
Without hesitation Mainieri announced that Zack Hess and Eric Walker will start on Friday and Sunday. The Saturday spot continues to be up in the air, but is likely to go to freshman Landon Marceaux.
Friday - Zack Hess (junior)
Saturday - Landon Marceaux (freshman)
Sunday - Eric Walker (red-shirt sophomore)