40 Hunter Kiel, Jr. RHP, no statistics
21 Doug Norman, Jr., RHP, 1-1, 3.41 ERA, 31.2 IP, 21 K
45 Russell Reynolds, Sr., RHP, 3-0, 4.08 ERA, 35.1 IP, 23 K
55 Hunter Newman, Sr., RHP, 1-1, 2.13 ERA, 38 IP, 40 K, 8 SV
Key word: Depth.
LSU has something in its pocket not many college baseball teams can say they have: a returning closer with two years of late-game experience under his belt.
Hunter Newman didn’t officially take the reigns of the closer’s job until midway through last year, but he has saved 12 games over the last two seasons, and as a fifth-year senior, is more accustomed than most to the pressure of late-inning situations.
Though he doesn’t have blow-it-by-you stuff typically possessed by closers, he’s unflappable on the mound and has a good feel for how to use the pitches in his arsenal.
The main question Mainieri faces is how to use Newman, a converted starter who is capable of going multiple innings if need be. If he goes, say, two innings on Friday, it affects how he can be used the rest of the weekend.
That’s where LSU’s depth comes in. The Tigers bullpen will deploy a mish-mash of veteran and youthful arms that Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn must now find roles for.
One name to watch is hard-throwing junior college transfer Hunter Kiel, who Mainieri said has the second best fastball and curveball on the team behind ace Alex Lange.
After a strong fall, Kiel has been a little inconsistent in the weeks leading up to the season. Mainieri is hopeful that goes away when the games start.
LSU will only enter the season with two left-handed options out of the bullpen in redshirt freshman Nick Bush and true freshman Blair Frederick. Neither has thrown a college pitch, and Bush has not yet regained form from an injury that caused him to miss last season.