LSU and Florida were voted co-favorites to win the 2017 SEC baseball championship in the annual league coaches preseason poll released on Thursday.
Five LSU players were named to the coaches preseason all-SEC squad, including senior second baseman Cole Freeman, sophomore outfielder Antoine Duplantis, senior shortstop Kramer Robertson, junior outfielder Greg Deichmann and junior pitcher Alex Lange. Freeman and Duplantis were first-team selections, while Robertson, Deichmann and Lange were voted to the second team.
LSU and Florida each received six first-place votes in the poll predicting the league champion. South Carolina received the two remaining first-place votes from the 14-coach panel.
LSU was the coaches’ preseason choice to win the SEC Western Division, followed by Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Alabama and Auburn. Florida was picked to win the Eastern Division, followed by South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri.
Freeman, a native of Mandeville, La., was LSU’s leading hitter in 2016 after transferring from Delgado Community College in New Orleans. He batted .329 (71-for-216) with the Tigers with seven doubles, three triples, one homer, 27 RBI, 46 runs and 26 stolen bases. Freeman was selected in June in the 18th round of the MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but elected to return to LSU for his senior season.
Duplantis, a native of Lafayette, La., a 2016 Freshman All-America and Freshman All-SEC selection, was the Tigers’ second-leading hitter last season, starting all 66 of LSU’s games and batting .327 (89-for-272) with nine doubles, five triples, two homers, 39 RBI, 45 runs and 13 stolen bases. He completed the season No. 2 in the SEC in base hits with 89 and No. 5 in the league in triples with five.
Robertson earned second-team All-America and first-team All-SEC honors at shortstop in 2016, batting .324 (84-for-259) with 20 doubles, two triples, two homers, 39 RBI, 61 runs and 14 stolen bases. The McGregor, Texas, product was LSU’s leading hitter in SEC regular-season games, batting .363 (45-for-124) with nine doubles, one triple, one homer, 19 RBI, 26 runs and six steals, and he finished No. 3 in the SEC in doubles, No. 3 in runs scored No. 8 in base hits.
Deichmann, a Metairie, La. native, batted .288 (68-for-236) last season with 14 doubles, three triples, 11 homers, 57 RBI, 45 runs and five stolen bases, finishing No. 7 in the SEC in both home runs and RBI. A .363 (29-for-80) hitter on the year with runners in scoring position, Deichmann collected 26 RBI in his final 21 games of the season. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, batting .600 (9-for-15) with three homers, 10 RBI, three runs scored and a .647 on-base percentage
Lange, a first-team All-American as a freshman in 2015, started 17 games last season as a sophomore, posting an 8-4 mark and a 3.79 ERA in 111.2 innings with 49 walks and 125 strikeouts while limiting opponents to a .226 batting average. He finished No. 2 in the SEC in innings pitched and No. 4 in the league in strikeouts.
Lange, a product of Lee’s Summit, Mo., enters this season with a 20-4 career mark at LSU. He has worked 225.2 innings in 34 starts through two seasons, posting a 2.87 ERA and 256 strikeouts.
LSU opens the 2017 at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 17, when the Tigers play host to Air Force in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
2017 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason Poll
1. Florida – 70
2. South Carolina – 61
3. Vanderbilt – 52
T4. Georgia – 29
T4. Kentucky – 29
6. Tennessee – 20
7. Missouri – 12
1. LSU – 72
2. Texas A&M – 55
3. Ole Miss – 51
4. Mississippi State – 36
5. Arkansas – 27
T6. Alabama – 16
T6. Auburn – 16
SEC Champion: Florida (6), LSU (6), South Carolina (2)
2017 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason All-SEC Team
C: Mike Rivera, Florida
1B: Evan White, Kentucky
2B: Cole Freeman, LSU
SS: Dalton Guthrie, Florida
3B: Jonathan India, Florida
OF: Jake Mangum, Mississippi State
OF: Jeren Kendall, Vanderbilt
OF: Antoine Duplantis, LSU
DH/UTL: JJ Schwarz, Florida
SP: Alex Faedo, Florida
SP: Kyle Wright, Vanderbilt
RP: Tyler Johnson, South Carolina
C: Jason Delay, Vanderbilt
1B: JJ Schwarz, Florida
2B: Tate Blackman, Ole Miss
SS: Kramer Robertson, LSU
3B: Colby Bortles, Ole Miss
OF: Greg Deichmann, LSU
OF: Brent Rooker, Mississippi State
OF: Luke Bonfield, Arkansas
DH/UTL: Alex Destino, South Carolina
SP: Alex Lange, LSU
SP: Tanner Houck, Missouri
RP: Matt Ruppenthal, Vanderbilt