Looks like Blake Gill found his nitche... Article First base was the most unstable position on the LSU baseball team last season. Six different Tigers played at least one game there because no player excelled enough to stake a claim for the job on a full-time basis. Defensively, first base is not as complicated or physically demanding as other positions, so much of the instability owed to a lack of offensive punch from LSU's committee of first basemen. This season, hitting will again determine who plays there, but not necessarily in the same way. Outfielders will help decide the issue. Sophomore Blake Gill, who started 25 games at first base last season, is the odds-on favorite to be the starter in 2003. True freshman Will Harris and senior Eric Wiethorn will get a chance to play, although Wiethorn could be a more serious candidate for designated hitter. But how LSU's new outfield hits the ball will affect what happens at first base. Coach Smoke Laval wants to get the best hitters into the lineup, so he's keeping a close watch on outfielders Quinn Stewart, Ryan Patterson and Bruce Sprowl, all sophomore junior-college transfers. All three have pop in their bats, but Stewart probably has the best and most consistent bat speed and apparently has the early inside track to start in left field. "If Will (Harris) is a bigger offensive threat than Stewart, Gill will play left and Harris will play first," Laval said. "But if Stewart hits better than Harris, then Gill will play first and Stewart will play left. Or Patterson. Or Sprowl. "It sounds complicated until you see it." One thing is certain: Gill will play. "It's just going to be whether he's at first or left," Laval said. Gill is one of three players -- sophomore center fielder J.C. Holt and junior third baseman Aaron Hill are the other two -- with far more seasoning than the rest of the position players. The Tigers will lean on them for leadership and direction. "They're stronger, faster and more at ease with themselves," Laval said. "They understand what's going on now. They're more -- what? -- mature, experienced, whatever the word is." Gill is noticeably stronger, filling out his 5-foot-10 frame with a more solid 200 pounds. Last summer he led the Alaska Goldpanners to the National Baseball Congress championship, earning Most Valuable Player honors with a .407 tournament average and 10 runs batted in. That should help him enter the season with confidence. A year ago, after a redshirt 2001 season, Gill didn't get his first hit in an LSU uniform until his 18th at-bat. He finished at .292, respectable considering the early slump. "Blake hit about .322 if you take away that 0-for-17 start," Tigers hitting instructor Turtle Thomas said. "He should be better because he has another year of experience under his belt." Harris, the brother of LSU sophomore Clay Harris, also has good strength and could be a candidate at DH. At 6-4, 230 pounds, he's a slightly larger version of his older brother. Both played at Slidell High School and can pitch or play first base. The elder Harris was one of LSU's six first basemen last season, but Laval said he'll concentrate more on pitching this season, mostly in middle relief or as a midweek starter. Gill bats left-handed. Will Harris and Wiethorn each bat right-handed. Laval could platoon at first base if there's not much difference in their offensive production, using Gill against right-handed pitchers and one of the others against left-handed hitters. "But it really comes down to who swings the bat well," Laval said. And not just the first basemen.