After all the mess LSU Baseball has spent the last year dealing with, of course Opening Day would get frozen out and one of their opponents would have to go into quarantine. What was going to be a 4 team split weekend at The Box is now just 3 with Notre Dame announcing that they’re staying home with multiple positive tests for covid. As one of Paul Mainieri’s former jobs, I’ve no doubt we’ll see the Irish again somewhere down the road.
So now LSU will play Air Force twice and LA Tech on Monday. They’ll be sticking with the announced Weekend Rotation of Jaden Hill, Landon Marceaux, and AJ Labas. Mainieri also announced a partial starting lineup earlier this week, but stressed that he’ll tinker with it throughout the weekend.
(Starting positions, not a batting lineup)
- C Alex Milazzo
- 1B Tre’ Morgan
- 2B Cade Doughty
- 3B Will Hellmers
- SS Drew Bianco or Zach Arnold
- LF/DH Cade Beloso/Gavin Dugas
- CF Giovanni DiGiacomo
- RF Dylan Crews
Of note, Hellmers came to LSU to pitch, but impressed with his defense while filling in at 1B in fall practice, so he’s getting a shot to start.
It’s hard to really get an idea about any team when you’re relying on info from last year’s half-played season. Of note for the Falcons is SR 3B Cole Blatchford. From Air Force PR:
Blatchford was named All-MW at the end of the canceled 2020 season after he started all 19 games of the shortened season at third base, while leading the team in batting average (.343), slugging (.627), hits (23), runs (16), doubles (10), home runs (3) and total bases (42). He was also second in RBIs (13). He finished the season top-five in the conference in doubles (1st), hits (5th), home runs (4th), runs (3rd), slugging (4th), and total bases (3rd). Meanwhile, his doubles were second-most in the nation, while his total bases were 47th.
Air Force will be wearing memorial patches on their jerseys for Travis Wilkie, a former player who died in a training accident in 2019:
This season and the season’s that follow will be about honoring the life and legacy of former AF baseball player Travis Wilkie. Wilkie tragically lost his life in November 2019 in an aircraft mishap while going through undergraduate pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma. Travis was a three-year letterwinner for the Falcons from 2015-2018, appearing in 119 games, and starting 102 times behind the plate as a catcher. He earned a degree in systems engineering with a focus on factors engineering, graduating with the class of 2018. He was named to the Academic All-Mountain West Team all three years he played.
Throughout the season and for future season’s to come, there will be a TW20 patch on AF’s jerseys, and on the new turf behind home will be a subdued TW. Also, Wilkie’s No. 20 jersey will be assigned to the player or team personnel that best exemplifies Wilkie’s spirit and values. This season, it has been bestowed upon senior infielder Tommy Gillman.
After a tornado in 2019 destroyed LA Tech’s stadium, they spent all of 2020’s brief season on the road. This year they will finally return home to a beautifully rebuilt “Love Shack” J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park. The highlight on their roster is SR CF Parker Bates. From LA Tech PR:
After posting a breakout season in 2020, returning senior Parker Bates has collected four Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year honors. Collegiate Baseball, D1Baseball, Baseball America and Conference USA named Bates their Preseason POTY. Other accolades for Bates include third-team Preseason All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball and Preseason All-Conference USA honors from Perfect Game Baseball. D1Baseball also listed Bates as its No. 18 prospect from the C-USA for the 2021 MLB Draft. The Tyler, Texas native recorded a .422/.531/.891 (AVG/OBP/SLG) triple-slash line during the shortened 2020 season.
All games will be online only on the ESPN app through SEC Network+
- Saturday, February 20 – Air Force at LSU, 1 p.m. CT
- LSU – Jr. RH Jaden Hill (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 11.2 IP, 5 BB, 17 SO, 2 SV in 2020)
- AF – Jr. LH Stevan Fairburn (0-1, 4.91 ERA, 22.0 IP, 5 BB, 13 SO in 2020)
- Sunday, February 21 – Air Force at LSU, 12 p.m. CT
- LSU – Jr. RH Landon Marceaux (2-0, 2.70 ERA, 23.1 IP, 7 BB, 22 SO in 2020)
- AF – Sr. RH John Byrnes (2-1, 5.91 ERA, 10.2 IP, 4 BB, 8 SO in 2020)
- Monday, February 22 – Louisiana Tech at LSU, 6:30 p.m. CT
- (Probable) RS JR RHP Ryan Jennings (4-3, 3.76 ERA in 64.2 innings at Watron JC in 2019)
- LSU RHP AJ Labas (1-2, 3.55 ERA, 20 K, 3 BB)
Only half the league was in action tonight but here are the Friday finals.
Glad to be back, let’s do it again tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/liI09yICAN
— SEC Baseball (@SECbaseball) February 20, 2021
Periodic updates will follow in the comments below. I’ll be doing play-by-play on twitter again this season on my now personal account @valleyshook