Mainieri shakes up his outfield as SEC play nears

BATON ROUGE - LSU will enter its last weekend before Southeastern Conference play Friday when it opens a three-game series against Wichita State at 7 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium.

That means, LSU coach Paul Mainieri is running out of games to experiment before the games count significantly, and his No. 6 Tigers (9-4) have lost two straight and three of their last four, including a 5-4 setback at McNeese State Wednesday night. So Mainieri will try out a new outfield in this series with sophomore backup Brennan Breaux of Scott and St. Thomas More High in Lafayette and freshman reserve Zach Watson of West Ouachita High in Ruston expected to share starts in center field this weekend.

Sophomore Antoine Duplantis of Lafayette High will move from center field to left field. Greg Deichmann, who leads LSU with five home runs and 17 RBIs and is third with a .356 average, will remain in right field. Beau Jordan, the regular left fielder last year who has shared time there this season, will share designated hitter duties at the moment. Jordan is hitting .318 with two doubles and two RBIs in nine games and seven starts.

Duplantis, who is hitting .308 through 12 starts with eight RBIs, two triples and six stolen bases to lead the team, has not quite been the defensive ace in center that Mainieri thought he would be, but he could still return to that spot.

“I don’t know it it’s going to be a permanent move, but it’s basically our last pre-conference weekend to do some experimenting,” Mainieri said. “The rationale for that is I hold center field to a very high level of expectation.”

Mainieri also wants a closer look at Watson, who is hitting .286 in seven games but just one start. The No. 1 prep prospect in Louisiana last year by Perfect Game as an infielder, Watson may be the fastest player on LSU's team. He hit .481 last season at West Ouachita with 10 home runs, 18 doubles, four triples and 28 stolen bases with just eight strikeouts. 

"I’m very high on Zach Watson," Mainieri said. "I think he’s an electric player, and the only way we can find out if he’s ready to handle SEC-caliber competition is to throw him out there.”

Breaux is hitting .273 (6-for-22) through 11 games and six starts with one home run and a triple.

The Shockers (8-3) are coming off a 4-2 win at No. 13 Oklahoma on Tuesday. All of Wichita State's losses happened last weekend at No. 24 Louisiana Tech.

"I don't have to educate the fans in Baton Rouge about the strong history of the Wichita State baseball program," Mainieri said.

LSU defeated Wichita State in national championship games in 1991 and '93. The series continues at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.

THIS WEEKEND'S PITCHERS: FRIDAY - Junior right-hander Alex Lange (2-1, 4.97 ERA, 12 and two-thirds innings, 5 walks, 20 strikeouts), LSU, vs. senior right-hander Willie Schwanke (2-1, 2.08 ERA, 17 and a third innings, 8 walks, 9 strikeouts), Wichita State. SATURDAY - Junior left-hander Jared Poche (3-0, 0.00 ERA, 22 innings, 2 walks, 15 strikeouts), LSU, vs. junior left-hander Cody Tyler (2-1, 3.86 ERA, 11 and two-thirds innings, 5 walks, 14 strikeouts), Wichita State. SUNDAY - Freshman right-hander Eric Walker (1-0, 3.00 ERA, 15 innings, 3 walks, 19 strikeouts), LSU, vs. senior right-hander Zach Lewis (0-0, 3.00 ERA, 9 innings, 7 walks, 6 strikeouts), Wichita State.

TELEVISION: This weekend's games will be available on SEC Network Plus, which is accessible at WatchESPN.com and on the WatchESPN app.

LSU RADIO NETWORK: Alexandria – KSYL-AM 970. Baton Rouge - WDGL-FM 98.1. Bogalusa – WBOX-FM 92.9. Ferriday – KFNV-FM 107.1. Jena – KJNA-FM 102.7. Lafayette – KLWB-FM 103.7. Lake Charles – KXZZ-AM 1580. Leesville – KJAE-FM 93.5. Morgan City – KBZE-FM 93.5 and KFRA-AM 1390. New Orleans – WWL-AM 870. Opelousas – KLWB-FM 103.7. Ruston – KRUS-AM 1490. Shreveport – KWKH-AM 1130. Tylertown, Miss. – WFCG-FM 107.3. Ville Platte – KVPI-AM 1050.  

Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU sports for the USA Today Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter at @LSUBeatTweet. Coverage of LSU and commentary by Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at http://hebertstandc.com/.)

© 2017 WWL-TV


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