LSU baseball ranked No. 3 in preseason poll

Bill Franques

LSU is ranked No. 3 in the 2014 Collegiate Baseball newspaper preseason poll. The preseason ranking is LSU's highest since 2010 when the Tigers began the year at No. 2.

The Tigers, who had the nation's best winning percentage in 2013 (57-11, .838), were the NCAA Tournament No. 4 national seed last season and advanced to the College World Series for the 16th time in school history. LSU is one of three Southeastern Conference teams appearing in the 2014 preseason top 10 along with No. 2 Mississippi State and No. 9 Vanderbilt.

Other SEC squads appearing in the top 40 are No. 14 South Carolina, No. 16 Florida, No. 25 Texas A&M, No. 29 Alabama and No. 30 Ole Miss. Louisiana-Lafayette, another LSU opponent this season, is No. 23 in the ranking.

LSU opens the 2014 season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14 versus New Orleans in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.

The 2014 roster features 18 lettermen, including nine position players with starting experience and nine pitchers that have recorded innings for the Tigers. The LSU veterans are complemented by a talented class of 19 newcomers, rated No. 6 in the nation earlier this month in the annual Perfect Game recruiting ranking.

LSU completed its fall practice session in November, and the Tigers will begin preseason workouts on Jan. 24.

"It's a significant honor any time our program is recognized with such a high ranking, but we realize we have a lot of work to do before the season opener," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who has directed the Tigers to one national championship, three College World Series appearances, two SEC overall titles, four SEC division titles and four SEC tournament championships in seven seasons.

"We're very encouraged by the intensity and energy that our team has displayed," Mainieri continued. "The fall practice period revealed a lot about our players, and it gives us strong momentum heading into preseason practice in January. We've learned a lot about the players that can play significant roles for us this spring, and I'm very pleased with the work ethic and chemistry developing within the squad. I think our fans will enjoy watching a very talented and dynamic group of Tigers in 2014."

LSU features two first-team preseason All-Americans – junior pitcher Aaron Nola, the 2013 SEC Pitcher of the Year; and sophomore shortstop Alex Bregman, the 2013 National Freshman of the Year.

Other returning position players include senior All-SEC third baseman Christian Ibarra, senior outfielder Sean McMullen, junior outfielder Chris Sciambra, junior catcher/infielder Tyler Moore, junior outfielder Jared Foster, sophomore outfielder Mark Laird, sophomore outfielder Andrew Stevenson and sophomore catcher Chris Chinea.

Nola is joined on the pitching staff by several capable veterans including senior right-hander Kurt McCune, junior left-hander Cody Glenn and junior right-hander Joe Broussard, who returns this season after receiving a medical redshirt in 2013 due to an elbow injury.