Da Boot Sports
LSU Sports Communications
By: Bill Franques
BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU is ranked No. 1 in the 2023 Collegiate Baseball newspaper preseason poll released Tuesday, marking the 11th time in 12 seasons the Tigers will begin the year among the Top 10 teams in the nation.
The top ranking represents LSU’s first appearance at No. 1 in a preseason poll since 2019.
LSU wrapped up fall practice last month, and the Tigers will report back to campus in January to begin preseason workouts. The 2023 season begins on February 17, when LSU plays host to Western Michigan in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
“We had a very productive fall, and that’s a credit to the players,” said LSU second-year coach Jay Johnson.
“We have a ton of new players, so building a concept of team with our outstanding group of returning players was a priority. We’ve learned a lot about our team, but we’re probably not quite ready to play a game. We were more deliberate in our teaching this year because of the amount of new players that we have, but the work was high-quality and led to lot of productivity. We’ll be ready to roll when the players return to campus in January.”
LSU returns six position players that started in a significant number of the Tigers’ 62 games last season, including junior centerfielder Dylan Crews, a 2023 preseason All-American, the 2022 SEC Co-Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American last season.
Crews is joined by several other accomplished veterans like junior first baseman/preseason All-American Tre’ Morgan, senior outfielder/infielder Gavin Dugas, junior shortstop Jordan Thompson, junior outfielder/DH Brayden Jobert and sophomore outfielder Josh Pearson.
Other position players with starting experience include junior catchers Alex Milazzo and Hayden Travinski, senior first baseman/DH Cade Beloso, sophomore outfielder Josh Stevenson and senior infielder Jack Merrifield.
The veterans are joined by several talented newcomers, including impact transfers like utility player/pitcher/preseason All-American Paul Skenes (Air Force), infielder/preseason All-American Tommy White (North Carolina State and infielder Ben Nippolt (Virginia Commonwealth).
A group of skilled LSU true freshmen features infielder Gavin Guidry, outfielders Paxton Kling, Mic Paul and Zeb Ruddell, and catchers Brady Neal, Jared Jones and Ethan Frey.
The Tigers’ pitching staff boasts eight hurlers that recorded innings last season, including junior right-handers Ty Floyd, Blake Money, Bryce Collins, Will Hellmers and Garrett Edwards, junior left-hander Riley Cooper, and sophomore right-handers Grant Taylor and Sam Dutton. Left-hander Javen Coleman, who underwent Tommy John surgery last spring, is expected to miss this season and return to the staff in 2024.
High-profile transfers like right-handers Thatcher Hurd (UCLA) and Christian Little (Vanderbilt) are projected to make an immediate impact upon the staff.
The staff features a gifted crew of true freshmen pitchers that includes left-handers Griffin Herring, Nic Bronzini and DJ Primeaux, and right-handers Chase Shores, Jaden Noot, Micah Bucknam and Aiden Moffett. A pair of JUCO transfers – left-hander Nate Ackenhausen and right-hander Kaleb Applebey – will also bolster the staff.
LSU is one of 12 Southeastern Conference teams appearing in the Collegiate Baseball 2023 preseason Top 50, along with No. 2 Florida, No. 4 Texas A&M, No. 5 Tennessee, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 9 Vanderbilt, No. 22 Mississippi State, No. 24 Ole Miss, No. 37 Auburn, No. 39 Georgia, No. 47 South Carolina and No. 49 Alabama.
LSU is scheduled to play exactly half of its 56-game regular-season schedule – 28 games – against teams ranked in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll.
Collegiate Baseball 2023 Preseason Top 50
Rank Team (2022 Final Record)