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Preview: After 11 Month Layoff, LSU Baseball "Anxious" For More Baseball at the Box

Expect LSU to tinker with lineup throughout early part of the season

Through all of the postponements, schedule rearrangements and cancellations that have come this week, it's safe to say this has been a far from traditional prep week for LSU coach Paul Mainieri.

The latest news is that Notre Dame, LSU's scheduled Sunday opponent will no longer be making the trip to Baton Rouge for opening weekend. Instead, the Tigers with fingers crossed, will be playing Air Force on both Saturday and Sunday and following that game up with a Monday night matchup against Louisiana Tech. 

It's been a weird week for LSU, one that because of weather conditions, has kept the Tigers inside for practice, which also brought back some not so friendly memories from Mainieri's decade plus as Notre Dame's coach before coming to LSU. 

Mainieri said that the team will practice for the first time outdoors on Thursday and hopefully get one more practice in Friday before Saturday's opener, weather permitting.

"It's been a chaotic week and we're going to be really anxious to strap on a uniform and finally get to play a game against somebody," Mainieri said. 

Times remain the same for all games and Mainieri, who's been known to tinker with his lineups up to playing day, is more or less settled on what he wants to do for the first slate of games. Here are the final decisions:

Starting Lineup (no paritcular batting order)

1st- Tre Morgan

2nd- Cade Doughty

SS- Drew Bianco/Zach Arnold

3rd-Will Hellmers

C- Alex Milazzo

LF/DH-Gavin Dugas, Cade Beloso

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CF-Giovanni DiGiacomo

RF-Dylan Crews

Expect both Arnold and Bianco to earn reps at shorstop this weekend as Mainieri says that's a neck and neck race that hasn't been decided. Also the only real decision he's working through is whether Beloso or Dugas will earn the start at left field. 

The other will bat DH but both should see time in the outfield to really show what the Tigers have next to Crews and DiGiacomo. 

One of the popular topics of conversation ahead of the opener was the decision to move the freshman pitcher Hellmers to third base. It's a position he's comfortable with as he played third at Jesuit High School whenever he wasn't pitching. 

The thought first crossed Mainieri's mind when he saw Hellmers taking ground balls over at first base.

"I watched him field 20 ground balls and didn't come close to missing one," Mainieri said. "His mechanics of fielding were as sound fundamentally as you'd teach as a coach. I thought to myself 'this guy's got better mechanics then anyone else we've tried out here.'

"After about five minutes of being with this young man, your confidence grows. There's something about him that he carries himself with some confidence but it's not an arrogance because he's the nicest kid in the world. He's a unique kid."

Hellmers spent a few weeks away from the team due to COVID-19 protocols but returned last week and has really asserted himself at third base. Mainieri first approached Hellmers three weeks ago about moving positions and that's where his focus entirely will be over the coming weeks and months, or until Mainieri ultimately decides to move him back to pitcher. 

"I've been taking a lot of ground balls over there and getting a lot of work in," Hellmers said. "I'm getting a lot of confidence over there and I'm looking forward to learning and how it goes. I have some experience over there. Having the opportunity to play after a whole whirlwind, it really means a lot to be able to get back on the field."

Here's the full revised schedule as currently constructed heading into the weekend:

Saturday, February 20 – Air Force at LSU, 1 p.m. CT (P-Jaden Hill)

Sunday, February 21 – Air Force at LSU, 12 p.m. CT (P-Landon Marceaux)

Monday, February 22 – Louisiana Tech at LSU, 6:30 p.m. CT (P- AJ Labas)