Jack Wholestaff is back.
LSU will start Alden Cartwright on Wednesday against UNO, but coach Paul Mainieri said the junior right-hander will log no more than two innings, opening the door for a mishmash of relievers to complete the other seven innings.
“We tried to develop that fourth starter and didn’t really go as we had hoped,” Mainieri said. “So we moved Austin Bain back into the bullpen where I think he’s been throwing better. It’s not just a matter of not having a fourth starter; it’s a matter of we need to get these guys all pitching. The more mound time they get, the more confidence they get, the more comfortable they are in being out there. We’re going to need them all. It’s a long year. It’s been real successful for us in the past, especially in the midweek games.”
Cartwright started the team’s last midweek game, a 6-3 win against Louisiana Tech, throwing 3.2 innings of one-hit ball.
Bain earned the win with three innings of one-run relief.
“Familiar role,” Cartwright said of Wholestaff’s return. “It’s at it again. It’s a good system, I like it. My job is to go out there, get us off to a good start, let our hitters get a chance to score then hand it off to the next guy and let them finish the game.”
Riley Smith, whom Mainieri projected as a possible weekend starter in the preseason before shoulder soreness sidelined him for the opening weekend, has seen a recurrence of the problem and will be unavailable against UNO.
Smith, who was scheduled to start LSU’s March 9 game against McNeese that was postponed by rain, hasn’t pitched since a 15-1 game one win in the Tigers’ day-night doubleheader against Fordham on March 5, where he threw one perfect inning.
The right-hander played catch in right field under trainer Cory Couture’s guidance before practice Tuesday. Mainieri had no further update, saying only he “wasn’t ready yet.”
Lochridge to get MRI
After sitting out LSU’s final two games against Ball State with a tight back, O’Neal Lochridge will get an MRI on Wednesday morning, ruling him out for the UNO game.
Lochridge had a similar injury last season at St. Thomas More and said this tightness feels similar to that trouble.
“(I) can’t get loose,” Lochridge said. “I can deal with it to a certain point, then I feel like it’s physically restricting me on my swing. We’d rather it be 100 percent and ready than later play than play on it while it’s bothering me. ... I did the same thing (in high school), just stretching, and it ended up getting loose enough to where I could play. Then I stayed on top of it and it was fine.”
Lochridge said he first felt the issue while taking batting practice a week ago, but he played through the pain. The pain became too much, he said, toward the end of Friday night’s 7-1 loss to Ball State.
He attempted to take batting practice before the series finale Sunday and was initially in the lineup, but he was unable to swing fully and Mainieri scratched him for Chris Reid.
Reid or Trey Dawson will play third Wednesday night, the decision likely hinging on whether Bryce Jordan can play first base without issue.
Jordan, who was the designated hitter throughout the Ball State series, sprained his ankle two weeks ago in a collision with a photographer but took grounders at first Tuesday and said he feels well enough to play.
UNO is scheduled to start left-hander Bryan Warzek. If Jordan plays first base and Reid — a left-handed hitter — plays third, that opens a spot for the right-handed Jordan Romero at designated hitter in place of the left-handed Greg Deichmann, who played first throughout the Ball State series.
LSU to honor ’86 team
LSU will celebrate the 30-year anniversary of its first trip to the College World Series before Saturday’s game against Alabama, honoring the 1986 team that was Skip Bertman’s first to reach Omaha.
The team, which finished fifth in the College World Series, was Bertman’s third in Baton Rouge and featured six future Major Leaguers, including Albert Belle, Mark Guthrie and Rob Leary.
After winning the SEC regular-season and tournament titles, LSU defeated Tulane 7-6 in a regional title game at the old Alex Box Stadium to get the school’s first CWS berth.
LSU has returned to Omaha 16 times, winning six national championships.