Paul Mainieri sets LSU’s Opening Day lineup

After a month of open competition for a pair of outfield and infield starting spots, LSU head coach Paul Mainieri has settled on his lineup for Friday’s 2020 season opener against Indiana at 7 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium.

Junior center fielder Daniel Cabrera, one of four returning position starters from last season, steps into the leadoff role.

Freshman second baseman Cade Doughty bats second, followed by junior college transfer Zack Mathis in the third spot, returning starting junior catcher Saul Garza bats cleanup and returning starting sophomore first baseman Cade Beloso hits fifth.

Sophomore right fielder Gavin Dugas is in the six-hole, followed by freshman designated hitter Hayden Travinski swinging from the seventh spot, sophomore left fielder Drew Bianco hits eighth and returning starting junior Hal Hughes at shortstop rounds out the bottom of the order.

The biggest surprise is the outfield combination, but that lineup will not stick past opening day.

Last week, Mainieri had confirmed that Cabrera will be moving from left field where he mostly started last season to right field. But since Indiana is throwing a left-handed pitcher in Friday’s opener, he elected to go for a more offensive lineup by sticking Cabrera in center field and sitting sophomore Giovanni DiGiacomo.

DiGiacomo will start on Saturday in center and Cabrera will slide over to right field for likely the rest of the season.

“It’s not our best defensive outfield,” Mainieri said of his opening night lineup. “The next day (Saturday), the lineup will be different. And then Sunday will probably be a different lineup even from that. We’re going to try some different combinations over the first couple of weeks and see if it plays out the way I think it will play out and go from there.”

Dugas getting the start in right field opened the door for Doughty, the reigning Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year from Denham Springs, to start in his first collegiate game. Doughty was recruited as a shortstop, but during the fall he wasn’t playing defense at a high level. He was moved to second base to take some pressure off.

But he, along with Travinski, have displayed a propensity for offense in preseason scrimmages that put them in the season opening line as true freshman.

“They hit really well,” Mainieri said. “Travinski and Doughty have an unique quality about them as freshmen. I describe it as them being unafraid. They’re not intimidated by anything. They get in that batter’s box and I don’t care who they’re facing, they’re not backing down. They’re going to get their money’s worth.”

Hughes’ glove was enough to win the starting shortstop spot over freshman Collier Cranford, who missed over half of his Zachary High senior season last spring rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He also missed all of the Tigers’ fall practice.

Alex Milazzo, Cranford’s former high school teammate, didn’t get the opening catching nod. Mainieri confirmed the defensive wizard will be the battery mate of starting pitcher sophomore Landon Marceaux in Saturday’s 3 p.m. game two.

Sophomore Cole Henry takes the mound as Friday’s starter and redshirt sophomore AJ Labas gets first shot at the Hoosiers in Sunday’s 12 noon series finale.

“I don’t think you’ll see any of our starting pitchers going beyond five innings this weekend,” Mainieri said. “I guess there’s there’s an outside change of maybe six if their pitch count is under control. I think we’re probably talking about a 75-pitch limit on any of the starters, but they might not even get to that.”

The entire LSU-Indiana series will be broadcast online via the SEC Network+ and over the radio on 98.1.

Here are this weekend’s pitching matchups:

Game 1

LSU – So. RH Cole Henry (4-2, 3.39 ERA, 58.1 IP, 18 BB, 72 SO in 2019)

IU – Jr. LH Tommy Sommer (4-3, 3.40 ERA, 45.0 IP, 14 BB, 47 SO in 2019)

Game 2

LSU – So. RH Landon Marceaux (5-2, 4.66 ERA, 58.0 IP, 20 BB, 43 SO in 2019)

IU – So. RH Gabe Bierman (4-0, 3.56 ERA, 48.0 IP, 18 BB, 46 SO in 2019)

Game 3

LSU – So. RH AJ Labas (redshirted in 2019; 6-2, 3.48 ERA, 54.1 IP, 7 BB, 32 SO in 2018)

IU – So. RH Braydon Tucker (0-0, 2.70 ERA, 6.2 IP, 5 BB, 2 SO in 2019)

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