Last season, the hopes of getting back to Omaha for the LSU baseball team were crushed by the injury bug. One month into the 2020 season and the Tigers are already down two marquee players.
Coach Paul Mainieri made it a priority, especially early in the season, to put pitch counts on for his staff in order to keep them healthy, but after a month, the injury bug looks to have spread to marque position players. For LSU, this could not have come at a worse time, as they are trying to come together to find something that works before conference play starts this weekend.
Freshman outfielder Maurice Hampton Jr. was the first Tiger who caught the injury bug. The two-sport athlete hurt his back on Feb. 28 against Texas when the Tigers traveled to Houston for the Shriners Classic. Mainieri was hopeful that it was going to be minor, but after being put in the starting lineup the following day against Baylor, Hampton was pulled on account of the injury.
A dual-sport athlete, Hampton was just getting back into the groove of things. Fresh off a national championship win in football, Hampton was unable to participate in fall ball. Hampton had started seven of the previous eight games and had a five-game hitting streak to his name going into the Texas game.
Although Mainieri does not have an exact timeline on his return, he did state that Hampton's injury is very similar to one that former LSU baseball player Josh Smith had in his second year. Smith was limited to six games that season.
"He's going to be out for quite a while," Mainieri said. "I don't think it's going to be anything that will hamper his career going forward in football or even baseball."
Next in line was LSU designated hitter and catcher Saul Garza. The junior was held back from action in the Tigers’ final two games over the weekend against UMass Lowell. Similar to Hampton, Garza is dealing with a strained muscle in his back.
Moving forward, Mainieri has stated that Garza's status is up in the air, but he doubts that Garza will be able to take part in the upcoming midweek game against South Alabama. Garza was hitting .221 with a team-leading three homers and 12 RBIs.