The 2010 LSU baseball season gets cranked up this coming Friday, February 19th. The Tigers set out to defend their national championship as the preseason number two or three team in the nation, depending on what poll you look at. There are a few holes to fill from last year’s team, but the Tigers return a core group of players that played prominent roles in the title run of a year ago.
The two returning players that will catch most of the headlines are senior first baseman Blake Dean and junior right-hander Anthony Ranaudo. Part of the deal for Blake Dean returning for his senior year was for Coach Paul Mainieri to find a position to improve his draft stock and help LSU put their best lineup on the field. First base was an open spot and it naturally fit for Dean who is a big left-handed target for the infielders. From all reports, the transition is going well.
Ranaudo returns as the ace of the pitching staff and its Friday night starter. Anthony proved to be an imposing threat last year with his 6’7, 230 lb frame throwing 90+ mph fastballs off the mound. He has been mentioned as one of the favorites to be the first player chosen in this year’s Major League Draft.
Ranaudo is part of a seasoned staff and a bullpen loaded with talent and innings pitched. Paul Bertuccini returns for his senior season as the main setup man and Matty Ott, last year’s freshman sensation and first-team Freshman All-American, will again be counted on to be the closer. The Tigers will have to find a replacement for last season’s leader and one of LSU’s all-time greats Louis Coleman.
The middle infield will look a little different with the loss of D.J. LeMahieu. Tyler Hanover will take over his spot at second base and pair with Austin Nola in the middle infield. Redshirt freshman Wet Delatte takes over at third base and will be the only player in the infield who did not play somewhere on the field last year. Micah Gibbs returns as the rock behind the plate and will be looked upon to be one of the leaders on this year’s squad. A battery of Gibbs and Ranaudo will be one of the best in the nation.
In the outfield, the Tigers must replace Jared Mitchell and Ryan Schimpf, two of LSU’s best players from a year ago. Mikie Mahtook will take over Mitchell’s spot in right field, while Leon Landry finds his way back into the lineup in centerfield. Newcomer Trey Watkins will be the new left fielder and may push Landry for the spot in center. Either way, the outfield promises to be one of the fastest in the nation.
Coach Mainieri and his staff will have to put up with the ever so high expectations of the Tiger faithful, but now have the hardware to prove they can get it done. Mainieri has taken this team from not getting a regional bid to a national championship in just three short years. Bringing LSU back to national prominence was his goal when he was hired and he achieved that goal with hard work, discipline, and some good recruiting.
The Tigers are now officially back and will be a force to reckon with for many years to come. It’s the start of a new season and 2010 has come beginning this Friday in Alex Box Stadium.