BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU baseball team will be inexperienced on the mound and even more so behind the plate in 2018.
In a year where the Tigers have to start over with three new weekend starters, perhaps the most concerning position is catcher. Where last year LSU could rely on a veteran presence in Michael Papierski to calm rattled pitchers, the Tigers won’t have the same luxury next season now that Papierski is in the minor leagues and his backup, Jordan Romero, has graduated.
That said, LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri and his staff anticipated this weakness, recruiting three catchers for this year’s class. The trio of junior college transfer Hunter Feduccia and freshmen Mason Doolittle and Braden Doughty makes up the present and future of LSU’s backstops.
Mainieri doesn’t seem to be concerned. If anything, he’s excited to watch these players develop.
Given Feduccia’s advanced experience coming from LSU-Eunice by way of Barbe High School in Lake Charles, he’s the likely candidate to lead the race early, and his summer ball stats support that. Feduccia is hitting .376 with 7 home runs in 26 games for the Rockford Rivets of the Northwoods League. This includes a streak of 10 consecutive multi-hit games in which he’s scored 14 runs and has 19 RBIs.
“He’s tearing it up, he’s throwing out base stealers,” Mainieri said. “He’s doing really, really well.”
Per Mainieri, Doolittle wasn’t too far behind Feduccia. Playing for the Danville Dans of the Prospect League alongside future LSU teammates Brandt Broussard and Nick Webre, Doolittle was hitting .257 with a home run and 9 RBIs in 10 games before he sustained a concussion and chose to return home to manage his injury.
In Doolittle, Mainieri said he sees many of the qualities he’s seen in great LSU catchers of the past.
“From the day you meet Mason, one cannot help but to be captivated by his presence and personality,” Mainieri said. “A physically gifted athlete, Mason has a chance to make his mark on the LSU program and continue the tradition at LSU of having outstanding catchers.”
Then there’s Doughty. The son of a former LSU baseball catcher and a Denham Spring native, he seems to be a more defensive option behind the plate. But he does have some pop in his bat, as he hit .305 with 6 doubles during his final high school season.
“Braden Doughty rounds out our catching corps and has the potential to be a very valuable individual for the LSU baseball program,” Mainieri said. “A very good defensive catcher, Braden has great leadership skills and will be terrific at working with our pitching staff. Braden is one of those kids that every good team has; a very unselfish and team-oriented player who will do anything to help make the Tigers into a championship team.”
After this young trio, Mainieri listed junior infielder and designated hitter Bryce Jordan as his emergency fourth catcher. Given that the LSU baseball team’s third catcher from 2017, Nick Coomes, is on roster, this seems to indicate Coomes will no longer be catching for the Tigers, though he is still listed as a catcher on the official roster.