A day after six of his pitchers combined to issue 12 free passes via walks and hit batsmen in a 12-11 loss to Lamar, LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn said most of the struggles can be traced to fastball command — the fundamental foundation upon which he builds his pitching staff.
“Absolutely,” Dunn said when asked if the lack of fastball command produced the problems. “You give up eight walks and four hit batters and you’re not going to win many games. That’s no secret. (The) pitching staff knows that, and we have to be better than that to win the game. You can’t keep your team in the game when you do those type things. We know that’s not who we are as a pitching staff, and we need to be better than that.”
Starter Austin Bain, staked to an 8-0 lead entering the second inning, walked three and Riley Smith relieved him, issuing three walks of his own in a 1.2-inning stint.
“For us to beat good teams, when we get a good inning like that, a good lead, (Bain’s) got to go out there and just shut the door,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Until he does that, you cannot look at him as a bona fide weekend starter in the SEC. That’s just reality. It shows that Austin’s still a work in progress. I still love the kid and think he has the potential to be really outstanding. He’s just not quite there yet.”
Mainieri said Bain will likely start Wednesday at Nicholls State. He said he’d like to get Smith, who battled shoulder soreness two weeks ago, action this weekend against Sacramento State.
“First time out in a while, first time he’d been on the mound facing hitters,” Dunn said of Smith, a junior college transfer who made his LSU debut. “He understands you have to be sharper and you have to fill the zone up. ... I thought his stuff was very good. I thought his breaking ball has made tremendous improvement. Threw some really good ones yesterday. But he put himself in trouble (Wednesday) by giving up those walks that you can’t defend.”
With LSU up 11-10 after a rally in the seventh, Alden Cartwright gave way to Parker Bugg after Cartwright hit consecutive hitters with one out.
Bugg responded by hitting a batter himself to load the bases with two out. He then walked the first two batters of the eighth inning before giving up a single. Freshman Caleb Gilbert entered and provided the staff’s sole comfort on an otherwise ineffective night, even though he gave up the RBI single that scored the eventual winning run.
“Threw 14 pitches and 13 strikes,” Dunn said. “Pitched to the bottom of the zone, showed very good poise with the bases loaded. Pitched with conviction, that’s what you’re looking for and that was good to see.”
Lefty lineup in place
With Sacramento State scheduled to start left-hander Sam Long on Friday, Mainieri will counter with a righty-heavy lineup featuring Jordan Romero at catcher, Bryce Adams at designated hitter and Bryce Jordan at first base.
It will be the second start of the season for Adams and Romero. Both hit home runs in their first LSU starts, Adams’ a towering grand slam to left field in the 12-4 series finale win against Cincinnati.
“I’ve thrown to him multiple times in the fall and a little in the spring so he knows what kind of pitcher I am and I know what kind of catcher he is,” Friday starter Jared Poch é said of Romero. “It’s just going to take a couple pitches to get the feel in the game. He’s a good catcher, good kid, good ballplayer.”
Stallings feels good
Still with five stitches in his right pinkie finger that was wrapped in a bandage, LSU reliever Jesse Stallings threw a bullpen session Thursday and said he thinks he’ll be ready to pitch this weekend.
Stallings cut his hand on the glass he was rinsing in his sink, caused when he shoved a sponge inside it to clean. Doctors told him the stitches should be removed next Wednesday.
“My pinkie’s not even going to touch the ball on my fastball and slider,” Stallings said. “I feel like I can (pitch).”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome.