Trey Dawson benched; O’Neal Lochridge will play third base
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Paul Mainieri has pulled the trigger on an early-season shuffling of the left side of his infield.
Cole Freeman will again start shortstop in place of freshman Trey Dawson tomorrow night at Lamar and remain there “for the foreseeable future,” Mainieri told Tiger Rag during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. Another rookie, O’Neal Lochridge, will get a crack at being the everyday third baseman.
“I hate to use the word permanent because who knows what happens,” Mainieri began, “but for the foreseeable future, until I have a different feeling about it if I ever do. I want Freeman to settle in and see if he can play shortstop for the LSU Tigers on a regular basis and I want to see if Lochridge can play third. If they perform well, we’ll stick with this.”
Mainieri first made the switch before Sunday’s 12-4 victory against Cincinnati, sliding Freeman over and inserting Lochridge after Dawson started the first two games of the series at shortstop with Freeman handling the hot corner.
Freeman hit safely in all three games this weekend and Lochridge homered in his first career start after singling and ultimately scoring the game-winning run in Friday night’s extra-inning thriller.
Dawson struggled both in the field and at the plate (0-for-7, 5 strikeouts) against the Bearcats, but Mainieri says the decision isn’t a snap reaction to one rough opening weekend.
“This isn’t a two-or-three game thing, I’ve been watching these guys at practice every day for four weeks now,” Mainieri said. “Since Trey came back from Christmas break, he just hasn’t seemed as sure of himself out there in the field and certainly not at the plate.
“He just seems a little bit too tense, like he’s holding on too tight.”
Both Freeman (fielding) and Lochridge (throwing) committed an error of their own during the weekend series, but Mainieri points out both responded well to their respective defensive lapses. He spoke of the confidence each played with where as Dawson appeared tentative.
The new-look infield will be back in action as LSU (3-0) travels to Beaumont Wednesday night to take on an undefeated Lamar club coming off a weekend sweep of Southwestern Missouri State (4-0) and a 13-5 win over Arizona on Monday.
After sharing a dugout for nine years, Mainieri now gets a reunion of sorts with former assistant Will Davis, now the coach-in-waiting at Lamar.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Mainieri said. “Obviously it’s going to be a tremendous challenge. They just beat Arizona, a team that beat Rice two out of three, handily. I’m sure they’re playing with a lot of confidence and belief in themselves, and whenever you play a team like that in their home park it’s a challenge that’s going to be good for our team.”
Sophomore right-hander Austin Bain will make the start for LSU with Riley Smith slated to be the first reliever out of the bullpen. Mainieri hadn’t yet talked to pitching coach Alan Dunn regarding pitch counts, but said he assumed Bain’s would be in line with the 85-pitch limit set for this past weekend’s starters.
– Reliever Jesse Stallings won’t pitch Wednesday against Lamar, Mainieri said. The hard-throwing reliever suffered a cut requiring five stitches on his right pinkey finger while doing dishes in his apartment Monday night.
– Mainieri announced he will use the same weekend rotation for the upcoming series against Sacramento State
Friday: Jared Poche’
Saturday: Alex Lange
Sunday: John Valek