As Major League Baseball Opens, Don’t Miss MLB Futures Showcase With No. 9 Tennessee At No. 1 LSU

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LSU and Tennessee are not Major League Baseball teams, all 30 of which opened the 2023 season on Thursday.

But many MLB scouts and other personnel were and will be missing from those games because they will be at LSU in Baton Rouge for the No. 1 Tigers and No. 9 Tennessee Thursday night.

“I’m told a minimum of 50 to 75 from MLB,” LSU baseball publicity director Bill Franques told OutKick on Thursday.

LSU Has Remained The No. 1 Team

LSU (22-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) entered the season at No. 1 in most polls and has remained there. Tennessee (20-6, 3-3 SEC) opened at No. 2 in multiple polls. The first game is at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. A 7 p.m. game Friday will be televised by the SEC Network with the third game at 1 p.m. Saturday on SEC Network +.

Most of the MLB personnel coming to Baton Rouge will likely be gone by sunrise Friday as the Thursday night game will feature perhaps the greatest pitching duel of the entire 2023 college season. Of course, it could happen again at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, this June.

LSU-Tennessee Pitching Duel Attracts Many MLB Scouts

Tennessee junior right-hander Chase Dollander (4-2, 3.93 ERA, 53 strikeouts, 8 walks in 34 1/3 innings) will oppose LSU junior right-hander Paul Skenes (5-0, 0.72 ERA, 71 strikeouts, 7 walks in 37 1/3 innings) Thursday night.

Dollander is the projected No. 2 overall pick to Washington in the MLB Draft on July 9 by the MLB Pipeline website. Skenes is slotted to go No. 4 in the first round to Texas.

“The best arm in the class,” wrote Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo. “Dollander is considered by some to be the best college pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole.”

Skenes’ uncanny 17.1 strikeouts per nine innings leads the nation.

And there is LSU junior center fielder Dylan Crews, who is a near-consensus No. 1 overall pick to Pittsburgh. He could be worth staying for all three games. Crews leads the nation in batting average at .542 – 63 points better than No. 2 Jacob Wilson of Grand Canyon. Crews also is tops in the country in slugging percentage at .988 and in on base percentage at .667. He has nine home runs, 10 doubles and 32 RBIs.

LSU’s Dylan Crews Expected To Go No. 1

“Dylan could probably play in the Majors now,” LSU coach Jay Johnson has said multiple times this season.

Dollander is having an off year so far compared to the 2022 season when he was a consensus first team All-American at 10-0 with a 2.39 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 79 innings.

“He has been incredibly consistent, and that’s the hallmark of a good pitcher, whether you have your best stuff or you don’t,” Johnson said.

Another reason for the MLB personnel to book a two-night stay is the 2024 draft. Tennessee sophomore right-hander Chase Burns (2-1, 4.15 ERA, 59 strikeouts, 9 walks in 34 2/3s innings) will start Friday’s game. He is No. 7 in the nation with 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings and is considered a top five prospect for the ’24 draft. So is LSU sophomore right-hander Thatcher Hurd (2-0, 3.91 ERA, 32 strikeouts, 15 walks in 23 innings). He will start Saturday’s game.

And there is LSU sophomore first baseman Tommy White, who is considered a top 15 or 20 projection in the first round for 2024. White is No. 2 in the nation in RBIs with 42. He is hitting .390 with eight home runs and nine doubles.

“It’s going to be a fun weekend, and I know our players are looking forward to it,” Johnson said.

Tennessee coach Tony Vitello has son six straight against LSU, which is where his team opens a three-game series Thursday night. (Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“It’s rowdy. It’s just in the nature,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. “Down there, you’ve got a pretty cool culture. And those people are looking for a party. They’re looking for a reason to tailgate.”

Tennessee And LSU Match Up Well

Tennessee is No. 3 in the nation in earned run average at 2.62. LSU is No. 2 in batting average at .339 and in runs with 11.1 a game.

The Vols have beaten LSU six straight times with a win last year in the SEC Tournament, a two-game sweep in a Super Regional at Tennessee in 2021 and a three-game sweep at Tennessee in the regular season that year. LSU swept three from Tennessee in the Vols’ last visit to Baton Rouge in 2018 in Vitello’s first season.

“Our guys need to turn off some of the outside noise,” Vitello said. “Whether that’s a Twitter battle, media, rankings, draft projections and other things.”

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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