LSU baseball notes: Kyle Bouman fares well in first start in 22 days

LSU pitchers Kyle Bouman and Jared Poché were playing a meaningless game of pitch and catch when the worst happened.

Bouman jumped for a throw and landed on a loose baseball, spraining his ankle and knocking him out of competition for nearly a month.

“I was so mad when it happened,” Bouman said.

Bouman’s back. He made his first start Sunday in 22 days in the Tigers’ 17-4 win over Mississippi State, a victory that gave LSU its first Southeastern Conference series sweep of the season.

The junior-college transfer pitched 3.1 innings; he allowed five hits and one run, walked one and struck out four in an outing that coach Paul Mainieri called “courageous.” But the coach would not say whether the Missouri native would return to his place in the weekend starting rotation.

“I was so proud of him,” Mainieri said.

He told Bouman late Saturday night that he’d start Sunday’s game if the ankle felt good in the morning. Mainieri did not want to reveal his Game 3 starter.

In fact, Mainieri and State coach John Cohen did not announce their lineups until late — about 40 minutes before game time.

“He told me not to tweet anything or whatever,” Bouman said with a laugh. “Guess we were trying to keep it a secret.”

Bouman pitched to one batter in Wednesday’s win over McNeese State, his first appearance in a game since the injury occurred March 17.

He sprained the ankle just days after Mainieri named him, and not Cody Glenn, a weekend starter along with Poché and Nola.

“It’s definitely been tough, just trying to stay positive and know that my time’s going to come sooner or later,” Bouman said.

Pitching to Rea

Mainieri stepped away from his normal perch at the opening of LSU’s dugout and slipped into a back room to watch one at-bat Sunday.

He wanted to see Bouman pitch to Mississippi State’s 6-foot-5, 275-pound junior, Wes Rea. Like many of Rea’s at-bats over the weekend, it ended poorly.

Rea, State’s No. 3 hitter, was 0-for-11 in the three-game series, with six strikeouts, and he was pinch-hit for in the sixth inning Sunday. Mainieri watched Bouman’s first-inning strikeout of Rea on TV.

“I don’t know if it was so much Wes Rea not swinging well as much as our pitchers making great pitches,” Mainieri said.

Last time it happened

The last time LSU swept Mississippi State, the Tigers said goodbye to the old Alex Box.

The series sweep Sunday secured the first over the Bulldogs since 2008. After that series, LSU had a ceremony to close out the last regular-season series at the old stadium.

It also marked State coach Ron Polk’s final game against LSU.

“They were ugly games, but we found a way to win all three of them,” Mainieri said. “I wanted to win those games so bad because, after the final game, we had a big ceremony to close up the Box. We didn’t know if we were going to have postseason.”

LSU swept Auburn the next weekend and won the SEC tournament the following, drawing a national seed and hosting a regional and super regional in the old stadium.

Low numbers

The three-game attendance for the series was 15,553, a small number for a meaningful matchup.

The weather may have played a factor. It rained off and on during Sunday’s final game, which drew a crowd of just 3,102.