Austin Bain would prefer not to think about the last time he started a game.
Things didn’t go well.
“It was a rough game,” the LSU freshman said.
Bain hopes to make a better memory Sunday. The rookie out of Dutchtown High has been moved into the Tigers’ weekend starting rotation after a handful of successful relief appearances over the past month.
He’s scheduled to start Sunday against Auburn, replacing struggling freshman Jake Godfrey as LSU’s No. 3 guy.
“I’m ready to show what I can do,” Bain said Monday.
About two months into the season, coach Paul Mainieri has made his first tweak to the team’s starting rotation as the Tigers (27-5) head into a five-game week on a four-game winning streak. Godfrey has lasted less than two innings in his past two starts, losing his spot to a guy who helped clean up his mess Saturday.
Bain struck out nine and allowed three hits in a scoreless 6.2 innings of relief in Saturday’s 6-4 win over Alabama, entering for Godfrey with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning.
He got LSU out of that jam and, at one point, retired 13 straight batters — an outing that earned him Southeastern Conference co-freshman of the week honors Monday.
The other reward: his first start since last May, when he struggled in Dutchtown’s 4-0 loss to St. Amant in the quarterfinals of the LHSAA playoffs.
“I was having arm problems,” Bain said. “That was the start of my arm problems. I was 87-88 (mph) and we lost.”
Bain’s arm, then suffering from soreness, is fine now — good enough for Mainieri to toss him into the weekend rotation as a first-year player. He coupled that outing against Alabama with solid relief showings at Arkansas and against Kentucky.
Bain began the season as a candidate for a midweek starting role. That ended with him getting the flu during the second week of the season. He missed the final two games of the series against Boston College while having a 102-degree fever.
“It was tough. Felt like I went down a little bit,” he said. “Just trying to work my way back up.”
Bain said he won’t change anything with his move into a starting role. What will change? Requests for tickets to Sunday’s game from friends and family.
“I’m sure I’m going to have to find a few more tickets,” he said.
Godfrey is slated to start Wednesday against Northwestern State (17-13), and Mainieri hopes the pitcher can extend for longer than his past two starts — 0.1 and 1.2 innings.
“I’d like to see him get past the first couple of innings of a ballgame. Last couple of weekends have been tough for him, tough for our bullpen,” Mainieri said. “I still think the world of the kid. I think he’s got a lot of talent, think he’s got a bright future, think he’s going to be an outstanding pitcher at LSU, but he needs to get back on the horse right away. I told him, ‘You’ve pitched a grand total of two innings in two weeks. We need to get you out there for some mound time.’
“He’s struggling right now,” the coach continued. “We’ve got it analyzed pretty well. We’re working with him. Hopefully he’s going to start pitching well again for us.”
Recovering from Bama
LSU players practiced in T-shirts and shorts Monday as the squad continues to recover from a three-day series against Alabama last week that lasted a combined 38 innings.
“Last week was a grind,” Mainieri said.
There’s no real break, either. LSU has two midweek games this week — UNO on Tuesday and Northwestern State on Wednesday — before hosting Auburn this weekend.
The coach is hoping pitchers Kyle Bouman and Russell Reynolds can pitch for much of the game against the Privateers (11-20) as his bullpen remains limited from the exhaustive series against the Crimson Tide.
Closer Jesse Stallings, who pitched a career-high 4.2 innings Saturday, is unavailable for the game against UNO.
LSU moved up in five of six of the major polls, surging into the No. 1 spot in Perfect Game’s top 25. The Tigers are ranked No. 3 in three polls and No. 4 in two others. … Outfielder Jake Fraley, who started at designated hitter Saturday, continues his recovery from a hamstring injury. He was expected to do some base running and play some outfield during practice Monday.
UNO at LSU
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Alex Box Stadium
Rankings: LSU is ranked in the top five, and as high as No. 1, in all six major polls. UNO is not ranked.
Projected starting pitchers: LSU Sr. LHP Kyle Bouman (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs. UNO Jr. RHP Kevin Kelleher (1-3, 3.54)
Online streaming: SEC Network+, which is accessible at SECNetwork.com and the Watch ESPN app.
Radio: WDGL-FM, 98.1 (Baton Rouge); KLWB-FM, 103.7 (Lafayette); WWL-AM, 870 (New Orleans)
In-game updates: @DellengerAdv
What to watch: Bouman and Russell Reynolds will split the game, and coach Paul Mainieri hopes the pair can handle much of the load. LSU’s bullpen is still limited after that exhaustive series against Alabama.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.