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LSU Baseball Notebook: Several Freshmen Starters Emerging and Pitching Rotation Becoming Clear

Mainieri updates stellar freshman class, says Tigers learned a lot about team over fall ball
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Paul Mainieri didn't want his opening comments to be taken out of context when he said the LSU baseball team is off to a "great" start in fall camp. Mainieri knows it's all fluid in terms of how the COVID-19 virus could affect the program. 

After having to delay the start of fall ball by a week with most of the team in quarantine, LSU was finally able to start on Sept. 30. Since that time, Mainieri says there has not been a single positive test within the entire program, allowing the Tigers to get in a month of productive work without any problems. 

Considering there are 40 players to evaluate this year heading into the spring, that's big news for the purple and gold in starting to hone in on a potential lineup and pitching rotation.

"We've had the entire team together without any kind of disruption and I'm just so thrilled we were able to have a fall practice," Mainieri said. Tuesday in a press conference with reporters. "We found out a lot about our team and have some outstanding new players in our program to complement the returning players we have."

Here are some of the main takeaways from Mainieri's fall ball updates as practice winds down. 

Freshmen Stepping Up 

Fall ball is a time for stars to emerge on the practice field and usually it's a more veteran player that takes a big year two or year three leap. This season for LSU, Mainieri has seen the growth of multiple young freshmen, headlined by outfielder Dylan Crews, hitter and pitcher Will Hellmers and first baseman Tre' Morgan.

Morgan has been the breakout star of fall camp according to Mainieri. He's been so impressive that Mainieri, who is heading into his 39th season of coaching, actually had to move two-year starter Cade Beloso to left field because Morgan was playing so well. 

"Tre has just played phenomenal baseball," Mainieri said. "In my 40 years of coaching I've probably had three or four first basemen that have stood out because they're so good defensively at first base. This kid is going to impact the game in a big way with his defense. His footwork around the bag is amazing, he's long and athletic. He might hit three hole for us to, he's as tough an out as we have on the team.

"I don't see anything that he can't do, he looks like a future major leaguer to me."

Crews came in as the most highly regarded freshman recruit of the 2020 class, possibly the most highly regarded prospect since Daniel Cabrera. In the month that LSU has been back at fall practice, Crews has proven to Mainieri and the staff that he's an every day caliber player for the Tigers. 

"He has lived up to the billing, he's hit a couple of home runs, he plays really hard, he plays the right way and he's been accepted by his teammates," Mainieri said. "He's made it very clear he should be an every day player for us without question."

Mainieri has been so confident in some of the young freshmen, that if the season were to start today, three would be in the starting lineup with another two knocking on the door of a starting position. Here's what Mainieri said the LSU lineup looks like as fall camp draws to a close. 

Cade Doughty, 2B

Zach Arnold, SS

Tre' Morgan, 1B

Cade Beloso, LF

Dylan Crews, RF

Will Safford, 3B

Will Hellmers, DH

Giovanni DiGiacomo, CF

Alex Milazzo, C

Pitching Staff Becoming More Clear

Morgan is the undoubted breakout star of fall camp but Mainieri said that junior pitcher Landon Marceaux is not too far behind as the second most impressive player with AJ Labas not too far behind Marceaux.

"Both of those guys have pitched tremendous baseball. Last year Landon came up with this slider and this year that slider has been virtually unhittable by our batters," Mainieri said. "They know it's coming and they still can't hit it. His command with his fastball is outstanding, his changeup has continued to develop and he's more experienced and more confident."

LSU seems to be content moving forward with Jaden Hill, Marceaux and Labas as the weekend starters, though Mainieri did say he hasn't decided on an order because they're all "pitching like Friday night starters." Hill of course is the one player LSU fans remember so much about as he threw 17 scoreless innings as a relief pitcher in the shortened 2020 season. 

Hill throws upwards of 97 or 98 mph with his fastball and the real goal this fall was to see him throw extended innings. Mainieri said on Tuesday that Hill has pitched a five inning and four inning session this fall and looked better towards the end of those outings 

"Jaden has had some really good moments but he hasn't pitched the way I know he can pitch on a consistent basis," Mainieri said. "I don't want to put too much stock into what he's done this fall."

Relievers Devin Fontenot, Ma'Khail Hilliard, Trent Vietmeier and Matthew Beck figure to be huge veteran pieces out of the bullpen for the Tigers but keep an eye on freshmen Will Hellmers and Ty Floyd as well. 

LSU Purple-Gold Series Lineup and Rotations

LSU will cap fall practice with a three game series with its starting pitchers going against its projected starting lineup and the reserves battling it out as well. Here is the full rundown of the lineup: 

Purple Batting Order

Jordan Thompson, SS

Brody Drost, RF

Gavin Dugas, LF

Mitchell Sanford, CF

Jake Wyeth, C

Drew Bianco, 2B

Collier Cranford, 3B

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Braden Doughty, 1B

Gus Milligan, DH

Purple Starting Rotation

AJ Labas, RHP (Wed.)

Jaden Hill, RHP (Thu.)

Landon Marceaux, RHP (Fri.)

Purple Bullpen

Devin Fontenot, RHP

Matthew Beck, RHP

Ma’Khail Hilliard, RHP

Trent Vietmeier, RHP

Jacob Hasty, LHP

Brandon Kaminer, LHP

Gold Batting Order

Cade Doughty, 2B

Zach Arnold, SS

Tre’ Morgan, 1B

Cade Beloso, LF

Dylan Crews, RF

Will Safford, 3B

Will Hellmers, DH

Giovanni DiGiacomo, CF

Alex Milazzo, C

Gold Starting Rotation

Garrett Edwards, RHP (Wed.)

Ty Floyd, RHP (Thu.)

Will Hellmers, RHP (Fri.)

Gold Bullpen

Aaron George, RHP

Alex Brady, LHP

Blake Money, RHP

Javen Coleman, LHP

Brooks Rice, RHP

Theo Millas, RHP