LSU pitchers to be tested with seven games in eight days
Paul Mainieri’s pitching staff will get its ultimate test.
LSU’s scheduled game at Northwestern State on Tuesday was postponed to Thursday because of icy road conditions, thrusting the Tigers into a busy week more fitting for a major league team.
Starting with Wednesday night’s game against Sacred Heart, LSU (9-2) will play five straight games and seven in eight days.
All of this precedes the team’s first Southeastern Conference series at Vanderbilt on March 14-16.
“It’s not the perfect situation,” Mainieri said Tuesday. “The weather dictated it. You just roll with the punches and deal with it and get ready to go. It’s baseball.”
Mainieri’s stock of arms will get a test.
Brady Domangue, a reliever who starred at LSU-Eunice the past two years, will start Wednesday’s game at Alex Box Stadium against the Pioneers (2-1).
Freshman Jared Poché, who had been set to start Tuesday, instead will go Thursday when LSU and Northwestern State meet at 3 p.m. in Natchitoches.
Mainieri said he made every attempt to find Sacred Heart an opponent so LSU could travel to play the Demons on Wednesday, but nothing worked out.
LSU was set to bus to Natchitoches on Tuesday morning for that afternoon’s game. The Tigers never left.
Several roads were closed in the middle portion of the state near Alexandria because of a wave of icy weather that has produced sleet and freezing rain throughout the state.
Ace Aaron Nola will start Friday in the first game of a three-game weekend series against Purdue (1-7). Kyle Bouman will start Saturday, and Cody Glenn gets the nod Sunday.
“The biggest thing is it’s going to force us to use all of our bullpen,” Mainieri said. “I’m not talking about two- or three-batter outings. We’ve got a lot of innings to burn. Even assuming good starts by all of your starters, it’s going to leave an awful lot of innings for your bullpen to pitch.”
It’s an unsettled bullpen without the full depth the coach once expected.
LSU is down to 13 available pitchers, about five fewer than normal. Three hurlers are suffering from injuries, one left the team, and another never made it to campus.
The Tigers lost a weekend starter and their top five relievers from last season.
Mainieri continues to search for the final two starters behind Nola in his SEC weekend rotation. The coach has made it clear that Poché, with a solid outing against Northwestern State, can secure one of the spots. Glenn and Bouman are battling for starting gigs as well.
Mainieri is expected to make a decision on the weekend rotation after Poché’s third start — and first on the road — against Northwestern State. Mainieri and his staff gave “a lot” of thought to pitching Poché on Wednesday, but the coach wants him to have a road start.
If Poché does well enough Thursday to get into the rotation for the Vanderbilt series, Mainieri likely will pitch him for a couple of innings against Nicholls State on Tuesday.
Bouman (3-0, 1.00 ERA) and Glenn (1-1, 4.80) will each get another shot over the weekend against lowly Purdue.
Domangue gets his chance Wednesday against a Sacred Heart team that took two of three from Tulane this week. A good showing from Domangue could thrust him into the competition for a weekend starting gig, Mainieri said Monday.
Domangue struggled in his first two appearances of the season, lasting a combined seven batters in a pair of relief outings. In his third appearance, he pitched two scoreless innings to close LSU’s 19-0 win over Yale on Friday.
He has a shot now to get into the starting battle.
Meanwhile, Mainieri’s relievers will have opportunities to impress the coach over the next week.
“We’re going to find out what bullpen guys we’re going to be able to rely on,” he said.
The top relievers have emerged.
Joe Broussard has an edge on the closer role, and freshman Parker Bugg, Kurt McCune and Zac Person appear to be the top three out of the pen.
Beyond those, it’s an uncertain group with no real pecking order. That might change after this flurry of a week.
“Everybody gets an opportunity,” Mainieri said. “In the end, it will help us.”