FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Four highly touted freshman pitchers have grabbed the majority of the attention among those in LSU’s top-ranked 2014 signing class.
You know the four, of course. Alex Lange, Jake Godfrey, Jake Latz and Doug Norman.
A fifth rookie made a splash on Thursday night in the Tigers’ 5-1 loss to Arkansas — Austin Bain. The freshman from Geismar threw 3.1 innings of scoreless relief, allowing just one hit and striking out four.
“Overall, it was a confidence booster,” Bain said on Friday before LSU played Game 2 of the series against the Razorbacks.
Friday’s game started at 8 p.m. and did not end in time to make this edition of The Advocate.
Bain put on quite a show on Thursday in the longest outing of his career, a 63-pitch appearance that included a slew of jams.
He worked out of them all, in the process gaining the confidence of coach Paul Mainieri. Doug Norman, another freshman moved from the midweek starting role to the bullpen, pitched a perfect eighth inning.
“I thought Austin Bain was really good,” Mainieri said. “The positive take out of this night was the way he threw. They (Norman and Bain) look like guys we’re going to be able to count on.”
Bain trotted to the LSU bullpen in the third inning, threw in the pouring rain and raced back to the dugout. The fourth inning then started and wouldn’t end.
He ran back to the bullpen, threw more in the pouring rain and, this time, entered the game for struggling starter Jared Poché – with two on base and LSU already trailing 5-0.
What was he thinking? After all, this was the most significant appearance of his young career.
“I was just trying to focus on stopping runs from scoring, do whatever I could to stop runs,” Bain said. “Get outs and try to keep us in the ball game. I try not to think about that, tried to think about doing my job.”
Bain, a 6-foot-1, 186-pounder, was overshadowed during preseason by Godfrey, Lange, Norman and Latz — four pitchers expected to have starting roles this season. Mainieri, even, showed Bain a picture from inside The Advocate of the four other freshman pitchers. He told his rookie that someone was missing.
“There’s five freshman pitchers on this team, and this article is about four of them,” Mainieri told Bain. “How does that make you feel? He said, ‘It lights a fire under me.’ And I said, ‘Good. Well that’s the reason I’m showing it to you.’ ”
Bain’s role could be something more than just a reliever. Mainieri continues to search for a No. 4 starter after trying out Norman and Kyle Bouman.
Russell Reynolds is in the midweek spot for now, but Mainieri planned to pitch Bain in some early midweek games before he fell ill during the first week of the season.
Bain’s arsenal of pitches includes a fastball, curveball and changeup. He hovers in the low 90s with the heat. It was working for him Thursday against an Arkansas lineup that had 10 hits in 3.2 innings against Poché.
“I felt like I was locating my fastball,” Bain said. “I need to work on locating my off-speed a little better. But I feel confident working off my fastball.”
Bain had four walks in the stint, and he had to strand a whopping seven runners.
“It was more of missing with the fastball,” Bain said of the walks. ‘I need to work ahead and stay ahead so I don’t have to give the hitter their pitchers.”