Glenn Guilbeau / Gannett Louisiana
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU has missed the College World Series two of the last three years with losses at Alex Box Stadium, which is known as the greatest home field advantage in college baseball.
The Tigers have also lost hitting coach Javi Sanchez, an assistant at LSU since 2008 who helped recruit the nation's No. 1 class in 2011 and helped coach LSU to the 2009 national championship.
Sanchez decided recently to leave baseball to pursue other opportunities in his hometown of Miami, Fla. Mainieri tried to talk Sanchez into staying to no avail.
But the future nevertheless looks bright with the finishing touches being been made to another likely No. 1 class along with the hiring of a new hitting coach/recruiter in Andy Cannizaro over the last week.
'We sort of gambled and went after some really talented players that we knew would be draft risks who would possibly not ever make it to campus,' LSU coach Paul Mainieri said Monday at a press luncheon. 'When you look top to bottom, this one's at a high level. This really is an amazing group. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be a No. 1 recruiting class.'
Of the 13 players signed over the last several months, six were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft last month. But only one signed to play pro ball first baseman Bobby Bradley as the third round pick of the Cleveland Indians out of Harrison Central High in Gulfport, Miss.
LSU kept prized 21st round pick Mac Marshall, a left-handed pitcher out of Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., who was selected by the Houston Astros. Marshall, widely considered one of the top 50 prospects in the nation, and the Astros could not come to terms. The Tigers also kept left-handed pitcher Jake Latz of Lemont High in Lemont, Ill., after he was selected in the 11th round by the Toronto Blue Jays as well as catcher Mike Papierski from the same school after he was picked in the 16th round also by Toronto.
Right-handed pitcher Jake Godfrey of Providence Catholic High in New Lenox, Ill., chose LSU over the Atlanta Braves, who picked him in the 21st round - 27 picks after Marshall was tapped by Houston. LSU also retained 39th round pick Grayson Byrd, a shortstop from King's Ridge Christian High out of Milton, Ga., who was drafted by the Braves. Byrd is the son of former LSU and Major League pitcher Paul Byrd.
Mainieri, who ran out of pitching in both a Super Regional home loss to Stony Brook two years ago and in a home Regional loss to Houston last month, went heavy on pitching with this 12-man class. He signed seven pitchers in all.
The other four pitchers were right-hander/infielder Austin Bain of Dutchtown High in Geismar, right-hander Alex Lange of West High in Lee's Summit, Mo., right-hander Doug Norman of Ardrey Kell High in Fort Mill, S.C., and right-hander Collin Strall of South Forsyth High in Suwanee, Ga., via Tallahassee Community College.
'I hate to say it's better than this class or that class,' said Mainieri, who also signed the No. 1 class in the nation in 2007. 'But I think this class can have the same kind of impact as in '07 and '11. What we needed most in this class was power arms, and I feel like we got six of those. Our pitching staff is going to be deep this year. This is a wonderful class.'
Other members of the class of 2015 are infielder Greg Deichmann of Brother Martin High in New Orleans and twins Beau Jordan, an outfielder, and Bryce Jordan, a catcher/infielder, of Barbe High in Lake Charles.
CANNIZARO REPLACES SANCHEZ: To be his new hitting coach, Mainieri hired a former Tulane All-American who helped deliver one of the most disappointing weekends in LSU baseball history 13 years ago. Andy Cannizaro, the shortstop on the Green Wave team that defeated LSU in the 2001 Super Regional at Zephyr Field in Metairie to put Tulane in its first World Series, will be the Tigers' new hitting coach.
After LSU won the first game 4-3 in 13 innings on a Mike Fontenot home run, Tulane won the next two 9-4 and 7-1, ruining retiring coach Skip Bertman's chance to end his illustrious career in Omaha, Neb., at the CWS. Cannizaro homered in the second game.
'Even though I was on the other side, I couldn't help but have the utmost respect for the LSU program,' Cannizaro said. 'We had a lot of tremendous battles with LSU. I feel like I'm coming to work for the New York Yankees of college baseball.'
Cannizaro, 35, played mainly in the minor leagues for the New York Yankees organization from 2001-2007 and with Tampa Bay, Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox from 2008 through 2009. He returned to the Yankees as a scout from 2009 until accepting the LSU job.
'LSU is the top baseball program in the country, and I'm excited about the opportunity,' Cannizaro said.
'I believe Andy is a real star in the making and will have a tremendous impact on our program,' Mainieri said.