LSU may have lost its game against McNeese State on Wednesday night, but it dodged a major blow in the process.
Freshman third baseman Josh Smith, in the middle of his best game of the season at the plate, was hit on his right hand by a pitch from McNeese reliever Grant Anderson.
Immediately, Smith doubled over and reached for his hand. Athletic trainer Cory Couture said the pitch struck him directly on the knuckle.
“Honestly, right when it happened, I was pretty nervous,” Smith said.
But Smith stayed in the game, picking up two more hits at the plate and playing in the field without issue. Though his hand was still swollen the next day, Couture and the LSU staff could clearly see Smith did not fracture anything and did not require an X-Ray.
“It’s a tad swollen, but it’s pretty obvious there’s not a fracture there,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He’s able to do everything. He’s just a little sore. If you took 85-90 mph off a piece of your body, you’d probably be pretty sore.”
Smith was mired in the first true slump of his career, going 2 for 17 in his previous four games to see his batting average dip to .244.
But after a 4-for-4 night — the first four-hit night by an LSU player this season — Smith raised his season average to .311.
“Last weekend I struggled a little bit,” Smith said. “That’s baseball. You’ve got to stay at it, keep grinding.”
COLE McKAY REHABILITATING
Sophomore right-hander Cole McKay is one of two LSU pitchers who had not thrown yet this season, and it became clear why Thursday.
“He had a surgical procedure in January on his arm,” Mainieri said.
The LSU coach went on to say that while all surgeries are serious in nature, this wasn’t something like Tommy John surgery that would require a year of recovery.
“It was a procedure that he had to have, so there was a period of time where he couldn’t throw at all,” Mainieri said. “He’s in the midst of his rehab right now. We’re monitoring him to see what his availability will be.”
McKay went 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in eight innings as a freshman.
LSU THIN AT CATCHER
Junior catcher Nick Coomes came into the LSU baseball facility with “severe” hip pain Monday after he earned a start behind the plate last Saturday against Baylor. Mainieri said he will get some rest and LSU will continue to monitor him.
“The prudent thing is to give him a little bit of rest,” Mainieri said. “I think it’s something that will be manageable, at least through the rest of the season, but we have to pick and choose our time when we give him some rest.”
LSU is also not confident in Jordan Romero’s ability to get into a catcher’s squat, as the senior is still dealing with the effects of an ankle he sprained a week before the season opener.
The fourth catcher? That would be Bryce Jordan, who is out for the year with a torn ACL.
“Our catching situation is a little bit precarious right now,” Mainieri said. “We’re going to kind of fight through it and do the best we can.”
THE MUSTACHE CHRONICLES
Senior left-hander Jared Poché has been given Mainieri’s blessing to break the team’s no-facial hair rule for however long his scoreless inning streak runs — it’s currently at 22 innings to start the season.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Mainieri wants to keep seeing goose eggs from Poché, though.
“Jared is sporting the most ugly, unattractive mustache that I’ve ever seen on a human being,” Mainieri said. “I’m hoping that we win but he at least gives up a run so I can make him shave it off next week.
“Man, it’s an ugly mustache. Such a good-looking kid. He was growing kind of a scruffy looking beard and I made him shave it. Now I’m regretting making him shave it because it makes the mustache look even worse.”