Brent Bonvillain and Kurt McCune will reverse roles when the LSU baseball team plays Grambling at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Alex Box Stadium.
When the Tigers played Southern last Tuesday at Zephyr Field, McCune made his season debut as the starter and Bonvillain relieved him. But on Wednesday, Bonvillain will start and McCune will relieve him. Each is expected to throw two innings.
“I want to see how Brent handles going through the starter’s routine and the expectation of getting us off to a good start,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said before practice Tuesday. “It’s something he hasn’t done in a long time.”
Mainieri wouldn’t say whether this might be a prelude to Bonvillain getting another chance as a starter. He started three games early in the season and generally pitched well the first time through the opponent’s batting order before being scored on.
Bonvillain threw four innings against Maryland on Feb. 17, holding the Terrapins scoreless for three innings before giving up two runs, one earned, in the fourth.
He started and pitched 4.2 innings six days later against BYU and shut out the Cougars for four innings before yielding a run in the fifth.
In his last start against Stephen F. Austin on March 5, Bonvillain pitched four innings, holding the Lumberjacks scoreless for three innings before allowing a run in the fourth.
Bonvillain, a senior left-hander from Houma, is 2-0 with a 1.80 earned run average. He contributed 1.1 scoreless innings Sunday as the Tigers’ bullpen held Arkansas scoreless for the last six innings of a 5-3, 10-inning LSU victory.
In that game, Bonvillain allowed one base runner on a walk. And when he relieved McCune last week, he threw three scoreless innings and struck out seven, though he walked one and hit two batters. He has a team-high nine hit-batsmen in 25 innings.
“As of late, I’ve been walking a few people,” Bonvillain said. “I’m just trying to minimize that, and I’ll be fine.”
McCune allowed three hits and two runs against Southern in his return from a back injury, an outing Mainieri called “OK.”
“I’ve seen him better, and I’ve certainly seen him worse,” Mainieri said.
The Tigers trailed Arkansas 8-0 in what wound up as an 8-3 defeat when McCune entered the game to start the bottom of the eighth Saturday.
“I thought the inning he threw in mop-up work on Saturday night was really good,” Mainieri said. “He looked really crisp, he was hitting his spots, he was throwing hard. I was very encouraged by that.”
Mainieri will limit McCune, like Bonvillain, so he will be available for the Tigers’ Southeastern Conference series at Alabama this weekend.
“I’d like to see (McCune) step forward again and show that he’s got the command and he’s got all three pitches working and that he’s throwing hard and down in the (strike) zone,” Mainieri said. “If he continues to progress, it’s just going to be a great thing for our team.”
McCune said he’ll be successful if he can continue to pitch as he did against Arkansas.
“I felt like I was throwing harder,” he said. “I missed one spot, but besides that, I felt like I was hitting my spots pretty consistently, which is very comforting.”
McCune said he no longer looks at himself as someone working his way back from injury.
“I can’t use the excuse any more that I was hurt and I’m building back up,” he said. “I feel like I’m pretty much back. I might have a little more endurance and arm strength to build up, but as far as feeling comfortable on the mound, I’m just like any other pitcher on the staff.”
Mainieri said right-hander Will LaMarche will be among the pitchers to follow McCune to the mound Wednesday.
In the loss at Arkansas, LaMarche faced five batters, retiring just one, walking three and hitting one as he gave up three runs.
“We’ll get Will LaMarche back on the horse after his rough outing the other night,” Mainieri said.